The role of electronics in medical devices has evolved tremendously over the last several decades and continues to integrate into more products as the industry moves forward. Traditionally non-electronic devices are now becoming "smart," are being designed to communicate with healthcare professionals, and provide warnings when something needs to be addressed. In this Perspectives, participants were asked what we could expect from medical electronics in 2010.
What advances in medical electronics will be realized in 2010?
Technical Marketing Engineer, Micro Power Electronics Inc.
For portable medical devices, Micro Power Electronics will be releasing custom battery packs that can be sterilized via gamma radiation. These battery packs are designed for one-time use (i.e., primary batteries) and are typically used in conjunction with disposable surgical devices. The voltage and capacity is configurable to an OEM's specific power requirements. The primary battery packs will be packaged into sterile packaging and then be subjected to gamma radiation. Gamma radiation is a form of ionizing energy that sterilizes the exterior of a medical device. While most materials included in a battery pack for a sterile environment are formulated for radiation stability, some materials found in batteries (i.e., certain polypropylenes and electronics) experience breakdown and long-term aging effects as a result of gamma radiation. Micro Power has designed disposable batteries that have no performance or safety degradation after gamma radiation, while providing expected features such as light weight, long runtime, and long shelf life.
President/COO, KORE Telematics
Increasing integration of wirelessly-enabled personal sensors for pro-active health management, supply chain control, and patient monitoring have moved outside the "science project" and into mainstream. This is being driven by the availability of low-cost devices incorporating discrete sensors and the reality of inexpensive, ubiquitous, and reliable 3G cellular network access. Small size also means low power needs; devices that can monitor patients, from sleep apnea to pacemaker state, or be embedded into real-time delivery reporting systems for supply chain integrity in drug distribution allow users days–even weeks–of use with tiny battery needs.
Director of Business Development, Medical and Industrial Markets, ITT Interconnect Solutions
Portability and miniaturization, safety, data security, quality, and reliability are key trends we will see in 2010, particularly as they relate to higher resolution and higher density in smaller footprints. To be well positioned to support top OEMs in the medical industry, component manufacturers will need to be versatile enough to support any application, from large diagnostic to portable equipment to small, handheld diagnostic devices.
Remote surgery (also known as telesurgery) and the ability for a doctor to perform surgery on a patient even though they are not physically in the same location is another advancement in medical electronics. Remote surgery combines elements of robotics, cutting edge communication technology (such as high-speed data connections), and elements of management information systems. This is something we have come across from a new application standpoint in the medical field and to keep pace with this advancement, we are doing research and development work to develop new products for this particular application. Investing in engineering and project management will be instrumental in being adequately prepared to respond to all of these trends and advancements in medical electronics.
Director, Medical, Kontron America
A notoriously fast-changing market, medical electronics follow a development path similar to that of consumer electronics, with smaller, faster, more powerful devices paving the way for industry-wide advancements in patient care. Medical design arenas are closely tied to evolving CPU technology, new software requirements, and new data or performance requirements, such as higher resolution imaging or higher frame rates. As a result, high performance computing and high bandwidth communications are driving change in medical market segments ranging from imaging, diagnostics, and therapy to fitness, connected health, and PACS/IT.
High performance devices are making a difference—for example, diagnosing patients faster and much more effectively. With advancements such as multicore, 45 nm, and virtualization, designers are frequently seeking the most power in a small footprint, or higher bandwidth in a rugged, yet ultra-quiet system. Smaller and smaller devices, still packed with performance and features, will continue to proliferate and advance the role of mobile medicine. Larger scale systems will also continue to improve performance, with increased computing power, speed, and reliability based on processor advancements. Moving forward, technology will continue to enable a new level of care, playing a key role, as service providers work to improve both efficiency and standards of care.
VP/GM, DRC Metrigraphics
As a producer of micro miniature components, we only see a "small piece" of the medical device industry. Nonetheless, we continue to see more developments on making devices smaller, biocompatible, and of course, less expensive. Neurostimulation seems to be an area that cries for the first two, and deserves special attention in 2010. Devices that help formerly sighted people see or help others control Glaucoma also require biocompatibility as well as micro size. Sensors of all kinds–to measure body chemistries, to detect unwanted elements in the air, to check the chemistries of pharmaceuticals–require biocompatibility and need to be very small, implantable, or used in ways that require a miniature size.
To address the reduction of the expense side, we see greater application of Lean and the use of Continuous Process Improvement as part of our recent ISO 9001:2008 Registration. When FDA is involved, the proper qualification tests must be done before implementation.
Medical Marketing Director, Texas Instruments
New designs in patient monitoring equipment will become more portable with advances in power management devices enabling energy harvesting techniques, as well as advances in highly integrated precision analog biometric measurement engines. These end equipment devices will be connected to clinical infrastructures and body area network hubs with a variety of protocols such as Bluetooth, ZigBee, and proprietary protocols. The technology behind these clinical applications can also be leveraged to support an ever growing consumer wellness and fitness market.
We expect to see innovation in remote patient monitoring platforms in 2010, which will allow patient–caregiver face-to-face video and remote biometric monitoring. These platforms will be enabled by highly integrated embedded processors employing several low power wireless connectivity options connecting to blood pressure cuffs, glucose meters, weight scales, and pulse oximeters.
These same semiconductor innovations will continue to enable a trend making imaging equipment more accessible and affordable by enabling lower power and smaller size.