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Electronic Device Design, Part V

Wed, 05/13/2009 - 8:19am
More medical devices are being designed with electronic components that enhance the overall functionality and/or efficiency of the product. It is interesting to theorize where these electronics may take healthcare. For this month's Perspectives, we received a large number of responses so be sure to check out the other Parts of this feature.
Looking ahead, what technology will educe the biggest breakthroughs in electronic medical devices?

Director, Growth Industries Strategy, ENOVIA, Dassault Systemes

The technology that will educe the biggest breakthroughs in electronic medical devices is a total product record managed in context of physical (electro-mechanical) and non-physical parts (embedded software). The complexities of these devices require both the configuration control of both the physical make-up and the embedded software that operates the device. One cannot work without the other.

As implantable medical devices become smaller and smaller, they can be worn by patients in their day-to-day lives. These devices have mini-computers embedded with software to monitor physical conditions of patient and be able to administer drugs when required or record and transmit a log of a patient's condition.
Business Development Manager, Medical and High Reliability Group, Texas Instruments

There are several technology breakthroughs that have the potential to revolutionize healthcare. One of them is medical imaging. In this market segment, semiconductor innovation is enabling higher performance, lower power, and smaller size to make equipment more accessible and affordable while driving image quality to new levels of visibility inside the body. For instance, being able to make ultrasound equipment portable or even handheld means that it is no longer restricted to the hospital or sonographer's office. By putting it into a doctor's pocket and bringing it to the patient at the actual point of care, many new user areas are opening up. Examples include acute care, anesthesia, pain management, emergency medicine, and field care in areas such as on the battlefield or in a natural disaster. Breakthroughs in this technology could allow for every ambulance and doctor's office to be equipped with portable ultrasound devices, thus enabling earlier diagnostics and treatment. These are just a few possibilities where medical electronics will bring a great improvement to the quality of healthcare in all areas of the world.

Executive Vice President and Chief Technology Officer, Logic

As systems thinkers at Logic, we believe it won't be a single technology but the integration of several key technologies that will present the real opportunity for a healthcare breakthrough. Among those technologies are low cost sensors, low power digital wireless communications, and secure information management. The advent and adoption of continuous patient monitoring devices as part of predictive health monitoring will also offer profound solutions to healthcare.

Both sensor and digital wireless technologies are reaching the reliability performance levels necessary to be used for continuous and automated diagnostics of patients. When combined with wide-area wireless communications used in a secure patient information system, these devices could actually allow caregivers to pre-empt acute episodes like decompensated heart failure, hypoglycemia, or infectious disease outbreaks. Caught in time, for example, an acute decompensated heart event can generally be stopped simply by increasing the patient's prescribed diuretic—a five minute phone call from a nurse. However, if action is not taken and acute heart failure results, then hospitalization is required with great risk to the patient. A little sensor device keeping an eye on the patient and communicating with the care giver network could profoundly increase efficiencies and decrease the cost of healthcare.

Director of New Product Development, Amphenol Alden Products Co.

Wireless technology has enabled many breakthroughs in the medical electronics arena. The technology is key to the advancement and proliferation of implantables and monitoring devices. Despite opening new vistas to the world of data and communication, wireless principles unfortunately don't apply to power, fluid, gas, and optics.

Minimally invasive, electrosurgical devices often draw on several of these mediums requiring the placement of multiple catheters to perform a successful procedure. Adoption of these miraculous minimally invasive techniques was long hindered by the extended time required to place catheters in contrast to conventional surgical techniques. This situation is now being remedied by the ability to combine these modes into a single hybrid catheter and interconnect system. One catheter equals faster. The MIS revolution is back on track having addressed "OR throughput" by embracing hybrid interconnect technology.

Hybrid technology is also addressing traditional, outside the box cable management issues. A single cable can now replace the often confusing, always tangled, snake nest of wires found on many emergency medical devices resulting in a faster, safer procedure from a more intuitive product.

The advancement of hybrid interconnect technology and its ability to segregate and efficiently deliver any combination of fluid, gas, electricity, or light will fuel the creation and expansion of medical miracles well into the future.

Global Director of Business Development, Tyco Electronics – Elo TouchSystems

Touch-enabled user interfaces are already creating the biggest breakthrough in electronic medical devices.

Accessing a device via a touch screen is inherently more intuitive than using keys, trackballs, joysticks, or other indirect interface devices. Touch-based user interfaces provide direct interaction with a system, instead of indirect control via multiple keystrokes or remote control of an on-screen cursor. Just touch your choice, drag an icon to a new location, or use a gesture to enlarge/scroll/rotate a portion of the screen; you're directly telling the device exactly what you want.

Touch gives designers the freedom to totally re-think the user interface and simplify access to the ever-increasing complexity of devices through new graphical methods of interaction. Touch screens also create more space for the user interface by eliminating mechanical controls, transforming the entire face of the device into a touchable display. A larger user interface is not only easier to use; it also allows for more user involvement with the device, which is part of what makes the iPhone so addictive.

As devices become steadily more powerful and complex, while ever smaller, touch enables the user to take direct, personal, and simple control over them. Touch makes any electronic medical device more usable, which multiplies the value of whatever technology is inside.

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