Medical technology, or MedTech, brings solutions to improve lives using the latest advancements in technology. It is an evolving concept that combines innovative, high technologies such as artificial intelligence, Internet of things, nanorobotics, big data and even Blockchain to tackle the biggest challenges in medicine over the last decades. Overall, it has developed a more human, inclusive approach that aims to provide health for all.

Medical conditions and healthcare are being transformed by the disruptive and break ground technologies used by health professionals that are changing the lives after a rough diagnose or an accident. The main objective is to give back to the patient a certain level of the original quality of life by improving, replacing or simulating a physical characteristic close to the genuine one, in order to maintain the respective functionality and/or appearance. This aims to restore dignity and contribute to social inclusion. Therefore, here I will list the top 5 most impacting tools, methods and procedures that have been already implemented successfully in patients and have reached a satisfactory progress and rise in their quality of life.

3D printed body parts

The Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine prints ear, nose and bone scaffolds that can be coated with cells to grow body parts. (Laurie Rubin)

3D printing started to gain awareness in the past years, as engineers and designers started using this tool to create the unthinkable. This technology has been around for two decades; fortunately, the price has come down in recent years and more people have been able to make use of it. Consequently, we’ve started to be able to really tap into its vast potential.  

One really exciting application of 3D printing is the generation of body parts. The level of detail that this technology can produce often overcomes traditional methods results, offering patients a superior fit or design, and they can often be produced at an impressively low cost.

Virtual Reality for Medical experience and education

Dr. Shafi Ahmed wears a VR headset as he operates on a fictional patient as part of the Virtual Surgeon program his company designed.

On April 14, 2016, the British doctor Shafi Ahmed performed the world’s first operation broadcasted around the world via virtual reality.

The entire operation, which lasted approximately three hours, was live-streamed on Medical Realities website for people without a VR headset. For those who have one, they could download the “VR in OR” app to get immersed in the 360-degree surgery room, right beside Ahmed as he removed cancerous tissue from a male patient’s bowel.

The surgery began at 1 p.m. local time at the Royal London Hospital. Thanks to a partnership between Barts Health and the 360-degree video company Mativision, the broadcast will serve as a training tool for up-and-coming surgeons and other medical professionals. Rather than endure an expensive flight to a hospital for on-site education, students can tune into VR and still see firsthand how it’s done.

Food Scanners

Food scanners

A food scanner is designed to tell how many grams of sugar a fruit contains, or what the alcohol percentage of a drink is. Even though this is one of the most recent inventions that still needs adjustments in its different brands, it has been a powerful tool for people with gluten intolerance and diabetes to overcome fears at the time of eating and choosing food.

Food scanners will need to progress similarly to wearable health trackers – move from raw data to automated analysis and smart suggestions to the user.

Nanorobotics

Nanorobotics

Surgical nanorobots are introduced into the human body through vascular systems and other cavities. They act as semi-autonomous on-site surgeon inside the human body and are programmed or directed by a human surgeon. The programmed surgical nanorobot performs various functions like searching for pathogens, and then diagnose and correct lesions by nano-manipulation synchronized by an onboard computer while conserving and contacting the supervisory surgeon through coded ultrasound signals. Nowadays, the earlier forms of cellular nano-surgery are being explored.

 

Prosthetic parts

Printed skin made as face prosthesis

One of the bigger advancements in MedTech that have promoted social inclusion is all kinds of prosthesis either for humans or animals. Prosthesis comprehends a large diversity of technologies that contribute to the final result. 3D printing is used to recreate physical appearance as AI to recreate motion and dexterity.

The skin is technically the largest organ in the human body and thanks to 3D printing, it is possible to replicate it if needed. This can actually be done by taking a sample of DNA and growing stem cells to create a material to ‘print’ with. In the past, in order to perform a skin transplant, one would have to remove a patch from another part of the patient’s body. It might be a painful process and creates an additional unnecessary wound. It is officially possible to 3D-Print skin and transfer it onto patients but within a few years, will be even possible to have the capability to Scan and 3D-Print directly over the wound with just one machine.

With these MedTech solutions, healthcare is rapidly advancing not only to expand the variety of options to patients but to restore and improve the confidence and quality life conditions of them. A human being needs to feel useful in society to contribute and participate by its own means of them. That is why MedTech plays a fundamental role in integrating every individual as a needed and valuable member in the society.

Written by Sueyfer de la Torre

SIGEF 2018, the Social Innovation and Global Ethics Forum organized by Horyou, will include a special panel on MedTech. SIGEF2018 will take place in Singapore, on 12th and 13th September.

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