Technology in Medicine- The Future of Health Care
Technology and medicine are like “Pieces of a jigsaw puzzle” that complete and complement each other. The emergence of new diseases and complications of the existing ones pose a big challenge, starting from diagnosis to the treatment. Medical technology can help overcome this challenge by making diagnosis, treatment and rehabilitation easy, effective and personalized. The prime focus of this write-up is to give a brief picture of how technological innovation is changing the medical field, and how the future of medicine is going to be shaped by the technological innovation. With the innovations in medical technology, many new roads for business have opened, widening the scope for health entrepreneurs.
Keywords: Human Genome; Robotic Surgery; Nanomedicine; Stem cell therapy; 3D Printing
At a Glance
- History of Medical Technology
- Comparison of Technology Advancement
- Current Market Trends in Medical Technology
- New Scope for “Out-of-the-Box” Healthcare Entrepreneurs
- Technological Innovation in Medicine During The Last Decade
- Current Innovation of Technology in Medicine
- What The Future Holds For Medical Technology?
“Imagination is the key to innovation.” Let’s imagine a world where nobody is physically challenged, the blind people can see, and conditions such as heart failure, kidney damage, and cancer become something like a headache that is easily curable and not a matter of concern. Doesn’t that sound like a fascinating dream? With the field of medicine innovation expanding, in next 20 years, all these bewildered imaginations and dreams may become a reality.
Medicine, the science of diagnosis and treatment of disease, like all other domains, requires innovation and upgradation. According to Dr. Paul Droin, “The tree of medicine must be transplanted into a new soil, where its roots can deepen and intertwine to reach a more complex source of healing knowledge and bring together all traditions of healing, ancient and modern.” The new progressive technology can provide the soil for the rooting of medicine, allowing it to flourish and aid the delivery of improved healthcare. The intersection of technology and medicine has led to the development of a new fascinating field “Medical Technology” or Medical innovation.
Medical Technology involves the application of technology-based medical services for the disease diagnosis, management, and treatment. Ira Brodsky once wrote in an article, “The history of medical technology is a confluence of three distinct streams: the history of biological research, the history of clinical practice, and the history of the health care industry.” The influence of medical technology in the medicine field can be felt; from the age of surgery using the magnifying glass and scalpel, we have reached to an era of robotic and fingertip surgery.
History of Medical Technology
Comparison of Technology Advancement
With the changing time, the scenario of medicine has changed, and the modern science and technology has a significant contribution to it. The conventional diagnosis and treatment methods used in the past have become more sophisticated, and the precision and accuracy of all the medical practice and procedures have increased.
Table 1: Comparison of advancement in medicine due to technology
|Medical Complications||Past Medical Scenario||Present Medical Scenario|
|Skin cancer diagnosis||Classical invasive surgery and biopsies were needed in each and every case.||Skin cancer detection Apps, MelaFind Optical Scanners, etc. can assist the doctor to determine the need for biopsies.|
|Invasive surgeries||Surgeries in the past were a painful and invasive affair with high risk of blood loss.||Microsurgery, Robotic Surgery, Laser based surgery, etc. have made the surgeries less invasive.|
|Drug unresponsiveness||Same standard drugs were used for every patient suffering from the same disease often leading to drug unresponsiveness especially in cancer patients.||After the Human Genome sequencing, now the genome based personalized drugs are used in cancer patients.|
|Heart disease treatment||Angioplasty and bypass surgeries and pacemakers implantation were performed to treat heart diseases.||Transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR), apps like Cardiio, cardiograph, CardioMEMS HF System along with the standard surgery procedures are helping to treat the heart diseases.|
Current Market Trends in Medical Technology
In the year 2015, the U.S. healthcare market reached a value of $2.9 trillion, and it is forecasted to reach a buzzing amount of $3.78 trillion by 2018. The advancement of technological innovation in the medicine and healthcare sector gives a significant market growth promise.
Source: MarketsandMarkets, Statista
New Scope for “Out-of-the-Box” Healthcare Entrepreneurs
The innovation in the field of medicine is driven by many factors like emerging diseases, demand for patient health management and acts like Affordable Care Act. The enactment of Affordable Care Act has enforced great responsibilities over the medical practitioners to provide high quality services. Under the Affordable care Act, 16.4 million uninsured Americans acquired health insurance, leading to a high demand for prescribed medicines. According to statistics, this may result in big profit of $35 billion for the drug and Pharma industries. The time and the healthcare market is ripe for healthcare entrepreneurs who can think of innovative methods of applying medical technology to improve healthcare, and drive this idea to the market.
Table 2: List of successful innovative healthcare startups that received funding
|Company Name||Total Funds||Product|
|Moderna||$450 million||Messenger RNA Therapeutics|
|Surgical Theatre||$ 9.53 million||3D flight-simulator based surgical navigation platform|
|EpiBone||$ 4.5million||Stem cells based bone reconstruction|
|Biobots||$ 1.55 million||Blue light Technology based organ fabrication|
|AdhereTech||$ 2.35 million||Smart Artificial Intelligence based pill bottles|
|Ekso Bionic||$ 38.5million||Robotic wearable skeletons for paralyzed patients.|
Source: Tech Crunch, CB Insights
Technological Innovation in Medicine During The Last Decade
The bond between technology and medicine is a “long-term affair”, but with the upsurge in technological advancement in medicine, the field has made a path for innovations for the betterment of the healthcare. Some of the greatest medical innovations of the past decade include:
1. Human Genome Project
The basis of modern medicine is entirely dependent upon the understanding of the human genome. The major breakthrough came into the picture with the release of Human Genome Map, in the year 2000. The Human Genome Map opened several doors for the new research and innovation in the field of medicine. The genome based diagnosis and personalized medicine are becoming a reality now.
2. Da Vinci Robotic Surgery System
Thanks to all those Sci-Fi Movies, the fascination about robots behaving and working like humans are deep seated in our minds. But with the accelerating pace of technology the Robotic surgery has become a reality. One such example is the Da Vinci Robotic Surgery System developed by Intuitive Surgical in the 2000. The FDA has approved it for urological, Laparoscopic and gynecological surgery. But, research is still going on to develop fully-automated robotic surgery devices, as this will not only increase the precision of surgery but will make the surgery less invasive and risky.
3. Bioartificial Liver
The first Bioartificial liver was developed in the year 2001 by Dr. Kenneth Matsumara. With the new groundbreaking research in the stem cells the HepaLife is developing a Bioartificial liver using Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells (IPSCs).
4. Rheo Knees
The prosthetic body parts are in use from a long time, but, in the year 2004, the Ossur Company produced a new adaptive prosthetic joint. The “Rheo Knees”, can adapt according to the user’s walking pace and style and the new upgraded versions are integrated with biosensors and magnetorheological Technology.
5. Face Transplantation
Facial transplant is a gift of modern medicine to the people with facial disfiguration caused by trauma, burns or birth defects. It is a surgical procedure to transplant a new face to an individual by using facial tissue from the cadaver. The year 2005 witnessed the first partial facial transplant. However, with the advancement of medical technology the first successful full facial transplant was done in 2010.
6. Dual Energy CT with multiple detectors
The dual energy Computed Tomography with multiple detectors uses two X-Ray radiation sources along with multiple detectors. The dual CT not only provides better imaging in a faster manner but also helps to differentiate between soft tissues and other minerals and ions. It is used in imaging of liver, kidneys, and adrenal glands and even used for colonography.
7. IPS cells
The stem cell research field in the early 1990’s was a hot spot for new promising research. However, in 2001, the usage of embryonic stem cells was banned due to ethical issues creating a big barrier for this budding field. In the year 2007, a big breakthrough took place in the area of stem cell research, when Human Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells (IPSCs) were created by using adult human skin fibroblasts, which provided a new ray of hope for the researchers.
The iLimb bionic hand was the first prosthetic hand developed by David Gow in 2007. It has the capacity of grasping objects of every shape and size and also enables the user to move all the five motor-controlled fingers.
The emergence of Nanomedicine in early 2000 raised a new hope for the medicine researchers. The application of Nanomedicine varies from imaging, to drug delivery to new target specific medicine. In the year 2012, BIND Therapeutics developed BIND-014, the first target specific programmed nano-based cancer drug that went on human clinical trials.
The count and lists are endless but all the above mentioned innovations of the past decade created a base for the present day achievement of medicine and provided the opportunity for further research and development.
Current Innovation of Technology in Medicine
1. 3D Printing
3D printing is the process of creating three dimensional objects from 3D digital images. With time, the 3D printing is getting integrated into modern medicine.
a. 3D Printed Prosthetics
The 3D printed prosthetics are doing wonders for people with physical deformities. The 3D printed prosthetics are customized according to the need of the user. There have been several success stories of 3D printed prosthetics helping the users. 3D printed skulls are also under research for facial reconstruction.
b. 3D Printed Casts
Companies like Fast. Co and Bespoke are now focusing on preparing 3D printed casts. The focus is more to make the casts more user-friendly and comfortable allowing the additional free movement.
c. 3D printed Organs
The 3D organ printing is gaining popularity in the advanced biotechnology. The 3D printed organs are devices constructed with the help of three dimensional printing that can be used to replace the damaged organs. The bioprinted organs are similar to the body organs.
Research is going on in the University of Toronto to create 3D printed skin grafts. 3D printed Embryonic Stem cell are also gaining researchers’ attention in Heriot-Watt University. The researchers have created a new valve technology to print embryonic stem cells.
Researchers from the University of Pennsylvania and MIT are focusing in creating 3D printed arteries and artery networks using sugar coating and live cells.
d. 3D printed Pills
A team of researchers from Columbia University, Wake Forest University, and North Carolina University have created algorithms that can custom-built medication according to the patient’s requirement. The algorithm works on the basis of patients clinical and biological data. The software is a prototype that is still undergoing research, but with time the concept of personalized pills will become reality.
2. Bionic Eyes
The new technological innovation in medicine is helping in providing “A ray of Light” for the people with Retinitis Pigmentosa.
The Bionic Eye commercially known as Argus Retinal Prosthesis (Argus II) is an electronic retinal implant developed by Second Sight Medical Products Company. Argus II works by passing electrical stimulation to the retina that creates visual inception in the user. The video recorder captures the real time video that is processed by the Visual Processing Unit that is transmitted to the user optic nerve creating visual patterns that can easily recognized by the user.
3. Eye Guarding Mask
According to 2014 health statistic reports, around 29.1 million Americans have diabetes. Diabetes is associated with many complications, and one of them is diabeticretinopathy. It is the most common cause of blindness in diabetics. In patients with diabetes, the oxygen supply is decreased due to improper blood circulation. During night, the eye needs to adjust in the dark demanding more oxygen leading to the formation of new fragile blood vessels that gets easily damaged causing retinal edema. The new eye guarding mask, Noctura 400 Sleep Mask developed by Polyphotonix can prevent diabetic retinopathy as the mask radiates light over the user’s eyelids preventing the need for adaptation to dark.
4. Automated Germ-Slayers
The emergence of drug resistant pathogens is one of the biggest threats faced by clinicians in the modern age. The infection caused by drug resistant pathogenic strains of Methicillin Resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and Extended Spectrum Beta Lactamases (ESBLS) etc. can lead to the serious life-threatening infections. To overcome this problem, biomedical engineers and researchers from North Carolina State University are materializing body implants integrated with battery-powered automated germ slayers that can prevent infections. The concept of these implants is based upon the discharge of nanoparticles from the implants that will kill the germs and prevent infections.
5. Gut Cancer diagnosing Pill
Diagnosis of cancer in the gut is a painful and complicated process. The conventional endoscopy is used for the diagnosis of gastrointestinal cancers. The progression of microelectronics and fluorescence imaging enabled the researchers from the University of Glasgow to prepare an “imaging pill” integrated with LED source, imaging detectors, and wireless sensors. This pill will provide a better imaging facility in a less complicated and painful manner.
6. Dead Heart to Revived Transplanted Heart
The practice of artificial heart transplant came into the picture in 1982. However, it had many complications, and the recipients did not survive for a long time unless replaced by a donated heart.
The organ transplant essentially requires the donor to be alive but with the technological innovation, a team of doctors and researchers from St. Incent Hospital, Sydney created history by reviving a heart from the cadaver with the help of preservative and perfusion-based machine “OCS-HEART”.
What The Future Holds For Medical Technology?
The future of technological innovation seems promising. Many established business ventures have understood the importance of technological innovation and started working for gaining an upper hand.
Table 3: Futuristic Medical Innovation Projects
|Futuristic Medical Innovation Projects||Project Description|
|“Vasculoid” Nanobots||Hypothesized by Nano molecular biologist Robert A. Freitas Jr. the “Vasculoid” is an artificial vascular like device containing an enormous amount of nano size robots that can fight any infection and prevent diseases; it may replace the blood in future!|
|Designer Babies||The concept of genetically engineered embryos or designer babies is that, in near future with the help of genetic engineering and biotechnology the embryos can be genetically modified according to desired traits. However, the concept of designer babies is surrounded by controversies and ethical issues.|
|Robotic Pill||The futuristic pill is based on the concept of CO2 production due to the reaction between citric acid and baking soda that will allow the release of tiny sugar needles containing the drug. This pill may replace the need of an injection. The Pharma giant Novartis is working with Rani Therapeutics for the development of this pill.|
|Microneedle Patches||The U.S. Center for Disaster Control (CDC) along with Georgia Institute of Technology is working on the development of Microneedle-based patches that can replace the need for injection.|
|Wound Sealer Gel||A futuristic gel that can stop bleeding and start the wound healing process instantly. Joe Landolina and Isaac Miller‘s Veti-Gel is the perfect example of the wound sealer gel.|
|Finger Tip Surgery||Researchers from University of Illinois, Northwestern University, and Dalian (China) University of Technology are working on stretchable Nanomembranes that can replace the surgical scalpel for performing surgery.|
|Electronic Aspirin||Autonomic Technologies, Inc., are working upon a project of nerve stimulating implant that can block the sphenopalatine ganglion (SPG) signals that cause severe headaches like migraines.|
The medical practice originated somewhere in 350 B.C during the time of Hippocrates. Medicine is an age old “blessing” for the humans but with passing time, it is becoming more complex and challenging. This new situation demands the medicine to tie up with technology to help improve the delivery of health care. With the innumerable innovations in the trial phase, and many more in the embryonic stage, the market demands healthcare entrepreneurs who can tap this timely and immense opportunity. The future of medical technology looks exciting and rewarding, both, in terms of benefits to the society, and commercial advantage to the innovators and investors; not forgetting the incredible addition to the treasure of knowledge!
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