MD+DI associate editor Marie Thibault discussed the future of medtech with TechnologyAdvice Expert Interview podcast
Marie Thibault, associate editor at Medical Device and Diagnostic Industry, was a recent guest on the TechnologyAdvice Expert Interview Series.
In this episode, we discuss recent trends in FDA regulation of medical devices, developments in wirelessly powering implantable devices, and mobile health and wearables.
Below are Marie’s three biggest insights from the conversation.
1. It’s possible to power implantable devices without batteries.
"It sounds like a paradoxical idea to power something without a battery in it, but it's actually an idea that's been around for a few years. There are companies that make LVADs, or Left Ventricular Assist Devices. They're essentially devices implanted to help heart failure patients—patients who are either on the transplant list to receive a new heart or are too old or too sick to actually undergo a heart surgery. They receive a heart pump and it helps their circulation and takes some of the stress off of their heart.
LVADs sit in your heart and have a driveline that comes out of your body. A few years ago, the companies that make them announced their intention to create an LVAD that's actually fully implanted within the body.
Right now, it's a small port where there's basically a wire coming out of your body. Patients can't get these wires wet, they have to be really careful when they shower, they can't go swimming, and they get a lot of infections around that area—as you can imagine.
They wanted to transform that by making it incredibly tiny, a minimally invasive procedure, and to power the device that doesn't have a battery. This would be the holy grail for LVAD and they've been working on getting an LVAD completely within the heart that doesn't have any wires.
Researchers out of Stanford have taken this a step further. They created a very, very tiny coil that harvests power by an electromagnetic wave and it would allow LVADs to be powered on this. They found ways to amplify that power so that you could have it deeper within the body at a smaller size. We could have devices that are the size of a pill placed in your brain, or your heart, or your stomach, and it's powered basically by just holding a small charger up against your skin.
You could power things as large as a camera. A pacemaker, or something similar on the device level, would be a lower power. This opens so many doors."
2. The Apple Watch is influencing healthcare and compliance today.
"They have something called ResearchKit, which works to gather data from people about their lifestyle, eating habits, heart rate, etc. The goal is to use it as a tool to integrate into clinical trials.
Medidata Solutions is an interesting company that's been around about 15 years and they are facilitating the integration of mobile health into more traditional device and drug trials. So if you want to increase patient compliance with using a certain device, you can create an app or something to go with the trial that will basically check with them daily to say, "Hey, have you turned this on yet?" On the drug side, it's a similar sort of thing that helps track compliance."
3. Wearables help doctors track and research lifestyle factors that impact patients, however, there needs to be standardization among devices.
"In addition to compliance with the actual therapy that you're testing, you can also track what kind of lifestyle factors impact patients and do extra analyses on that data. A lot of opportunities will open up as we get more mobile health applications that can go beyond tracking the physiological measurements and get into deeper understandings beyond blood pressure and heart rate.
One major thing about mobile data right now is that there needs to be a lot of verification behind it. You're probably aware if you tried on a wearable. I happen to have a Jawbone and I've actually read it's incredibly accurate. One article compared the accuracy of different wearables and it's kind of stunning that they measure things like sleep differently. There needs to be a standard and a veracity to the wearable data that you're pulling in.
So that's another issue we'll see the industry rally behind in the next couple years — building veracity, making sure that data is secure, and making sure it can be integrated well. These are all issues that the device and drug industry are dealing with right now and it's an exciting trend to watch."
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Josh Bland is the host of the TechnologyAdvice Expert Interview Series.
[Image courtesy of RENJITH KRISHNAN/FREEDIGITALPHOTOS.NET]