Technologies which were created with other industries in mind have also impacted the way medical devices are being designed and built. Twenty-first century technology is drastically changing how we manage our health as well as how healthcare is provided and managed. Here we take a look at nine of these technologies and how will they impact our lives in the coming decade:
Mobile phones, tablets and disruptive technologies such as Google Glass allow physicians to see all pertinent information in real time, for quick and accurate decision making. Doctors can receive medical images directly to their phones, allowing them to reach a diagnosis and start treatment much faster. For patients, mobile apps can be used to access medical records, communicate with healthcare providers without having to visit the clinic, monitor their health and control physical devices.
New electronic devices for diagnosing patients in the comfort of their own home may replace visits to the doctor in the near future. These devices will also significantly decrease the likelihood of diagnostic error (currently 10% of diagnoses in developed countries are incorrect). In developing countries, the devices could help patients who live far away from medical clinics receive the care they need without having to travel.
Medical device software
Medical devices are powered by user interfaces and active and remote monitoring software. As the software becomes more sophisticated, more advanced diagnostic devices are made possible. Continuous engineering, an enterprise capability that speeds the delivery of increasingly complex and connected products, is one of the ways in which software is developing and allowing for the production of improved medical devices.
Supercomputers can analyze a tremendous amount of data, from personal data about a specific patient to general medical knowledge and information from patient interviews. These supercomputers can help train medical students, assist physicians in making a diagnosis and help manage treatment. A new diagnostic app based on artificial intelligence is now available to physicians and patients alike. In the future, individuals will have access to data such as their current symptoms, biometric data, environmental data and personal data (such as diet and activity level) and their entire genome.
Transmission of data via the internet
Medical devices are already transmitting data about patient care and information which helps monitor equipment and perform maintenance when necessary. Soon devices used at home will also send data, so that more patients can be monitored from home. Hospital devices will communicate their locations in order to cut down on time and save lives. Predictive analysis will help surgeons and prevent human error in the operating theater.
Patients who need to monitor their health constantly, such as diabetics who have to check their blood sugar levels, will benefit greatly from new wearable technology. Instead of pricking their fingers a few times a day and getting random readings, they will get constant data from contact lenses which analyze their tear fluid. Other companies are developing similar devices which provide continuous information without forcing the patient to enter data manually.
3D printing technology brings with it endless possibilities. It is already being used to print hearing aids, braces for teeth, back braces, casts and prosthetics. Scientists are experimenting with ways to print whole organs, which would eliminate the need to wait for an organ to become available for transplant. Although this technology is not here yet, it may not be as far away as we imagine: Organovo, a California-based research company, has succeeded in printing human liver tissue.
Devices which allow people to control them with their minds are improving the quality of life for paraplegics and other disabled individuals. Brain-computer interfaces are expected to be useful in pain management and the treatment of debilitating diseases like Alzheimer’s.
Robots are already being used widely in the healthcare industry and their use is expected to increase in the coming years. Robots are used for certain menial jobs performed in hospitals, such as laundry pick-up and cleaning. They are also being used to operate and to perform functions such as scraping plaque from arteries. Exoskeletons are also a form of robotics. These external devices allow paraplegics to walk independently. Currently only available to army veterans, exoskeletons are expected to reach the consumer by 2015.
Triode team members are working on a daily basis with companies struggling with the changing technologies. We can help you to reduce their impact on your business.
At Triode, we specialize in developing new products and services for complex industries like medical devices and transportation. We work with you closely to help define product strategy, with an emphasis on reducing the risks associated with innovating in these sophisticated and often regulated consumer-oriented environments.
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