The role of technology is growing more and more across healthcare. We've seen digital health completely transform specific areas of medicine, empowering doctors, nurses and other healthcare providers to better tack, manage patient information and improve healthcare delivery, improve access, reduce costs and increase quality. Digital health has the ability to reduce inefficiencies and personalize medicine like we've never seen before.
One could argue that each day there is a new innovation happening in health. We've selected the top 4 most promising medical technology innovations.
1. Electronic Aspirin
Those who suffer from migraines, severe headaches and other causes of chronic head or facial pain, taking aspirin is useless. For years, doctors have believed that these types of headaches are caused by the sphenopalatine ganglio (SPG), a facial nerve bundle, but haven't found a long-term treatment until now. Under clinical investigation is an emerging technology from Autonomic Technologies Inc., —a patient-powered tool for blocking SPG signals at the first sign of a headache. The system uses a permanent implant of a small nerve stimulating device embedded in the upper gum on the side of the head, normally affected by a headache. The implant's tip connects with the SPG bundle. Once a patient feels a headache coming on, they place a handheld remote controller on the cheek close to the implant. This results in a signal that stimulates the SPG nerves and blocks the pain-causing neurotransmitters. Although, still under investigation, this has true promise.
2. Diabetes Patients: Say Goodbye to Needles
Echo Therapies in Philadelphia is developing a technology that would replace needles with a patch. Diabetic patients have enormous self care and the pain of a needle multiple times per day has long been unavoidable due to continuous glucose monitoring and insulin pumps. The company is working to create a transdermal bio sensor that is able to read blood analytes through the skin without having to draw blood, using a handheld electric-toothbrush-like device that removes just enough top-layer skin cells. This would then put the patient's blood chemistry within signal range of a patch bio sensor. The sensor collects one reading per minute and sends the data wirelessly to a remote monitor, triggering audible alarms when levels are detected from the patient. The device would be able to track glucose levels over time.
3. Less Melanoma Biopsies
Melanoma is the most deadly form of skin cancer. It's always been difficult to know which moles are harmless and which are at risk for cancer. Usually a quite invasive surgical biopsy is required. That is until now. Dermatologists now are using a handheld tool approved by the FDA for multispectral analysis of tissues. Called the MelaFind optical scanner, dermatologists shouldn't use this for definitive diagnosis, but rather provide additional information to be used in determining whether or not to order a biopsy, with the end goal always being reducing the number of patients who are left with unnecessary biopsy scars.
4. Heart Valve Re-imagined
Manufacterd by Edwards Life Sciences, the Sapien transcatheter aortic valve is a life-saving alternative to open-heart surgery for patients who need a new valve but most likely cannot undergo a huge surgery. This device is guided through the femoral artery by catheter from a small incision near the rib cage. Each valve is made of bovine tissue and attached to a stainless steel stent. The stent then expands by inflating a small balloon when correctly placed in the valve space. A simpler procedure promises dramatically shorter hospital stays and is bound to have a positive effect on the cost of this type of heart health care.