Technology and medicine have gone hand and hand for many years. Consistent advances in pharmaceuticals and the medical field have saved millions of lives and improved many others. As the years pass by and technology continues to improve, there is no telling what advances will come next. Here are the top 10 new medical technologies in 2019:
10. Smart inhalers
Inhalers are the main treatment option for asthma and if taken correctly, will be effective for 90% of patients. However, in reality, research shows that only about 50% of patients have their condition under control and as many as 94% donâ€™t use inhalers properly.
To help asthma sufferers to better manage their condition, Bluetooth-enabled smart inhalers have been developed. A small device is attached to the inhaler which records the date and time of each dose and whether it was correctly administered. This data is then sent to the patientsâ€™ smartphones so they can keep track of and control their condition. Clinical trials showed that using the smart inhaler device used less reliever medicine and had more reliever-free days.
9. Robotic surgery
Robotic surgery is used in minimally invasive procedures and helps to aid in precision, control and flexibility. During robotic surgery, surgeons can perform very complex procedures that are otherwise either highly difficult or impossible. As the technology improves, it can be combined with augmented reality to allow surgeons to view important additional information about the patient in real time while still operating. While the invention raises concerns that it will eventually replace human surgeons, it is likely to be used only to assist and enhance surgeonsâ€™ work in the future. Read more about robotic surgery here.
8. Wireless brain sensors
Thanks to plastics, medical advances have allowed scientists and doctors to team up and createâ€¯bioresorbableâ€¯electronics that can be placed in the brain and dissolve when they are no longer needed, according toâ€¯Plasticstoday.com.â€¯This medical device will aid doctors in measuring the temperature and pressure within the brain. Since the sensors are able to dissolve, they reduce the need for additional surgeries.
7. 3-D printing
If you havenâ€™t heard, 3-D printers have quickly become one of the hottest technologies on the market. These printers can be used to create implants and even joints to be used during surgery. 3-D-printed prosthetics are increasingly popular as they are entirely bespoke, the digital functionalities enabling them to match an individualâ€™s measurements down to the millimetre. The allows for unprecedently levels of comfort and mobility.
The use of printers can create both long lasting and soluble items. For example, 3-D printing can be used to â€˜printâ€™ pills that contain multiple drugs, which will help patients with the organisation, timing and monitoring of multiple medications. This is a true example of technology and medicine working together.
6. Artificial organs
To take 3D printing up another notch, bio-printing is also an emerging medical technology. While it was initially ground-breaking to be able to regenerate skin cells for skin draughts for burn victims, this has slowly given way to even more exciting possibilities. Scientist have been able to create blood vessels, synthetic ovaries and even a pancreas. These artificial organs then grow within the patientâ€™s body to replace original faulty one. The ability to supply artificial organs that are not rejected by the bodyâ€™s immune system could be revolutionary, saving millions of patients that depend on life-saving transplants every year.
5. Health wearables
The demand for wearable devices has grown since their introduction in the past few years, since the release of bluetooth in 2000. People today use their phone to track everything from their steps, physical fitness and heartbeat, to their sleeping patterns. The advacement of these wearable technologies is in conjunction with rising chronic diseases like diabetes and cardiovascular disease, and aim to combat these by helping patients to monitor and improve their fitness.
In late 2018, Apple made headlines with their ground breaking Apple Series 4 Watch that has an integrated ECG to monitor the wearer's heart rhythms. Within days of its release, customers were raving about the life saving technology, which is able to detect potentially dangerous heart conditions much earlier than usual. The wearable devices market is forecast to reach $67 billion by 2024.
4. Precision medicine
As medical technology advances it is becoming more and more personalised to individual patients. Precision medicine, for example, allows physicians to select medicines and therapies to treat diseases, such as cancer, based on an individualâ€™s genetic make-up. This personalised medicine is far more effective than other types of treatment as it attacks tumours based on the patientâ€™s specific genes and proteins, causing gene mutations and making it more easily destroyed by the cancer meds.
Precision medicine can also be used to treat rheumatoid arthritis. It uses a similar mechanism of attacking the diseaseâ€™s vulnerable genes to weaken it and reduce symptoms and joint damage.
3. Virtual reality
Virtual reality has been around for some time. However, recently, with medical and technological advances, medical students have been able to get close to real life experience using technology. Sophisticated tools help them gain the experience they need by rehearsing procedures and providing a visual understanding of how the human anatomy is connected. The VR devices will also serve as a great aid for patients, helping with diagnosis, treatment plans and to help prepare them for procedures they are facing. It has also proved very useful in patient rehabilitation and recovery.
In a technologically driven world, itâ€™s thought that as many as 60% of customers prefer digitally-led services. Telehealth describes a quickly developing technology that allows patients to receive medical care through their digital devices, instead of waiting for face-to-face appointments with their doctor. For example, highly-personalised mobile apps are being developed which allow patients to speak virtually with physicians and other medical professionals to receive instant diagnosis and medical advice.
With oversubscribed services, telehealth gives patients different access points to healthcare when and where they need it. It is particularly useful for patients managing chronic conditions as it provides them with consistent, convenient and cost-effective care. The global telemedicine market is expected to be worth $113.1 billion by 2025.
Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats (CRISPR) is the most advanced gene-editing technology yet. It works by harnessing the natural mechanisms of the immune systems of bacterium cells of invading viruses, which is then able to â€˜cut outâ€™ infected DNA strands. This cutting of DNA is what has the power to potentially transform the way we treat disease. By modifying genes, some of the biggest threats to our health, like cancer and HIV, could potentially be overcome in a matter of years.
However, as with all powerful tools there are several controversies surrounding its widespread use, mostly over humanityâ€™s right to â€˜play Godâ€™ and worries over gene-editing being used to produce hordes of designer babies. CRISPR is still a first-generation tool and its full capabilities are not yet understood.
As the years pass, technology in pharmaceuticals and medicine will continue to improve. People are living longer and fewer diseases are deemed incurable. Jobs in the pharmaceutical industry are in higher demand now than ever. Who knows what the next year will bring in medical advancements!
If youâ€™d like to be part of this exciting industry, ProClinical are recruiting for a variety of roles from top pharma, biotech and medical device companies. We would love to hear from you so have a look at our current job opportunities or upload your CV to get started!
1. Cutting Back on Melanoma Biopsies
With the most deadly form of skin cancer, melanoma, a huge number of dangerous-looking moles are actually harmless, but has always been impossible to know for sure without an invasive surgical biopsy. Today dermatologists have new help in making the right call — a handheld tool approved by the FDA for multispectral analysis of tissue morphology. The MelaFind optical scanner is not for definitive diagnosis but rather to provide additional information a doctor can use in determining whether or not to order a biopsy. The goal is to reduce the number of patients left with unnecessary biopsy scars, with the added benefit of eliminating the cost of unnecessary procedures. The MelaFind technology (MELA Sciences, Irvington, NY) uses missile navigation technologies originally paid for the Department of Defense to optically scan the surface of a suspicious lesion at 10 electromagnetic wavelengths. The collected signals are processed using heavy-duty algorithms and matched against a registry of 10,000 digital images of melanoma and skin disease.
2. Electronic Aspirin
For people who suffer from migraines, cluster headaches, and other causes of chronic, excruciating head or facial pain, the "take two aspirins and call me in the morning" method is useless. Doctors have long associated the most severe, chronic forms of headache with the sphenopalatine ganglion (SPG), a facial nerve bundle, but haven't yet found a treatment that works on the SPG long-term. A technology under clinical investigation at Autonomic Technologies, Inc., (Redwood City, CA) is a patient-powered tool for blocking SPG signals at the first sign of a headache. The system involves the permanent implant of a small nerve stimulating device in the upper gum on the side of the head normally affected by headache. The lead tip of the implant connects with the SPG bundle, and when a patient senses the onset of a headache, he or she places a handheld remote controller on the cheek nearest the implant. The resulting signals stimulate the SPG nerves and block the pain-causing neurotransmitters.
3. Needle-Free Diabetes Care
Diabetes self-care is a pain—literally. It brings the constant need to draw blood for glucose testing, the need for daily insulin shots and the heightened risk of infection from all that poking. Continuous glucose monitors and insulin pumps are today's best options for automating most of the complicated daily process of blood sugar management – but they don't completely remove the need for skin pricks and shots. But there's new skin in this game. Echo Therapeutics (Philadelphia, PA) is developing technologies that would replace the poke with a patch. The company is working on a transdermal biosensor that reads blood analytes through the skin without drawing blood. The technology involves a handheld electric-toothbrush-like device that removes just enough top-layer skin cells to put the patient's blood chemistry within signal range of a patch-borne biosensor. The sensor collects one reading per minute and sends the data wirelessly to a remote monitor, triggering audible alarms when levels go out of the patient's optimal range and tracking glucose levels over time.
4. Robotic Check-Ups
A pillar of health reform is improving access to the best health care for more people. Technology is a cost-effective and increasingly potent means to connect clinics in the vast and medically underserved rural regions of the United States with big city medical centers and their specialists. Telemedicine is well established as a tool for triage and assessment in emergencies, but new medical robots go one step further—they can now patrol hospital hallways on more routine rounds, checking on patients in different rooms and managing their individual charts and vital signs without direct human intervention. The RP-VITA Remote Presence Robot produced jointly by iRobot Corp. and InTouch Health is the first such autonomous navigation remote-presence robot to receive FDA clearance for hospital use. The device is a mobile cart with a two-way video screen and medical monitoring equipment, programmed to maneuver through the busy halls of a hospital.
5. A Valve Job with Heart
The Sapien transcatheter aortic valve is a life-saving alternative to open-heart surgery for patients who need new a new valve but can't endure the rigors of the operation. Manufactured by Edwards Life Sciences (Irvine, CA), the Sapien has been available in Europe for some time but is only now finding its first use in U.S. heart centers—where it is limited only to the frailest patients thus far. The Sapien valve is guided through the femoral artery by catheter from a small incision near the grown or rib cage. The valve material is made of bovine tissue attached to a stainless-steel stent, which is expanded by inflating a small balloon when correctly placed in the valve space. A simpler procedure that promises dramatically shorter hospitalizations is bound to have a positive effect on the cost of care.