How are you influencing portable medical devices?

Jose Fernandez Villaseñor, E.E, M.D.
Medical Enablement Manager, Freescale Semiconductor

Portable medical devices are important because they help patients to avoid complications (glucose meters, pressure monitors), they help in treatment (portable ventilators/respirators) or healing (insulin pumps), and they can also help with early diagnosis of potential health-threatening conditions (acute stress fetal syndrome: fetal heart rate monitors). However, these devices alone will not do the trick. We need information to be reliable and integrated into a full picture without overburdening the patient by having to take this test or send that reading. Freescale’s home health hub reference platform solves the integration issue in quite an interesting way. A home portable medical device is connected to the hub by any of Continua Health Alliance’s accepted protocols, such as USB PHDC, ZigBee Healthcare Profile, BT, or BTLE, and then gathers the information before sending using a WiFi wireless connection or Ethernet wired communication to the healthcare provider using one single i.MX applications processor. The technology integration seems to be there already, but how we use that information to close the loop will be the next step. The healthcare professionals need to send feedback to the patient easily and in a proper manner, and for that, we will need uniformity on video, voice, and medication availability.

Gabriel O. Adusei, MSc, PhD
Independent MedTech Consultant, Founder, Intl. Assoc. of MedTech Consultants

Portability and mobility are becoming increasingly common features for medical devices. Portable medical devices enhance mobility. The mobilization of medical and portability are driven by several factors, as the use of certain medical equipment has expanded beyond the hospital environment to emergency-response and home-care environments. These factor include space, power consumption and energy saving, and compatibility to other systems. Portable medical devices aim at incorporating many physical units of a system into a single component with keypads, LEDs for backlight and display with energy saving feature, touch screens, and miniature motors.

Large medical devices used within a hospital environment often require battery backup and mobility for the patient to transfer to different wards so battery selection is a critical issue. Battery types used in portable medical devices include sealed lead acid for rechargeability, nickel-metal hydride (NiMH), and lithium ion (Li-ion). An area where significant progress has been made in smaller, lighter, portable devices is the use of ultra-low-power consumption techniques as medical technologies are more field responsive. Li-ion cells offer many attractive advantages for portable medical applications over the older chemistries. Li-ion advantages include a much higher energy density, lighter weight, longer cycle life, superior capacity retention and broader ambient-temperature endurance, and the same amount of power as a NiMH or SLA solution with fewer cells.

Steve Kennelly
Senior Manager, Medical Products Group, Microchip Technology Inc.

Portable medical devices have the potential to follow a trajectory similar to consumer devices, and, in both cases, the chips inside the gadgets are letting designers drive innovation into brand new areas.

The new generation of personal electronic devices was propelled by the idea of apps that let people personalize them to fit their individual needs. Likewise, medical devices need to be smart enough to work in a wide variety of situations without supervision. In both cases, the key component is a processor with substantial computational capability. While portable medical devices usually only have to do one thing, they also have extreme cost constraints, and they often need to be disposable. Small devices mean small batteries, which calls for extremely low energy consumption. Packing a lot of processing “oomph” into a small package is a challenge—doing so while simultaneously meeting power and cost budgets is at the heart of Microchip’s goal to give system designers the freedom to innovate. Our eXtreme Low Power PIC microcontrollers are an example of this.

The mass adoption of personal connectivity gave us texting, tweeting, yelping, and 24/7 socialization. The mass adoption of portable medical devices may finally open up the possibility of better healthcare for more people at a lower cost.

Uwe Guenther
Manager, Medical Products, ZMDI

ZMDI semiconductor solutions enable the development of small “invisible” devices, which lead to a high user acceptance. Our wireless interface intellectual property (IP) blocks for RFID, and sensor signal conditioner IP blocks are tailored for medical applications where low noise, low power, high resolution, etc., are mandatory specifications. These solutions open the way for new applications, like implantable continuous glucose measurement devices, which are powered by an external RFID reader.

To ease product development, ZMDI has its own analog IC design technologies plus the corresponding design know-how for extreme low power and low voltage applications. These technologies let designers develop integrated circuits (IC) for a power supply below 0.9 V. Our highly integrated analog experience opens the possibility to reduce external/discrete parts by replacing them with just one IC and one battery with acceptable “on-times.” All together, designers have the potential to develop extremely small, lightweight medical devices for maximum user comfort.

Anthony Kalaijakis
Strategic Marketing Manager, Medical, Molex

Molex is in a unique position within the portable medical device market as traditional miniature products are now being designed to align with applications developed specifically for clinical settings. In response to this trend, Molex Micro Products was established to support the wireless communications and portable electronics industry.

Increasingly, the demand within the medical industry for more portable, robust, easy-to-use, and wirelessly connected medical devices is merging with the traditional mobile products market. The portability trend in these merging industries is also influencing commercial behaviors. As an example, Molex recently announced the unprecedented commitment for supporting a core series of Micro products for up to 10 years to accommodate extended product lifecycles in the medical industry.

By repositioning products from Molex Micro Products’ traditional industries and by extending product lifecycles consistent with the medical market needs, Molex is significantly influencing the portable medical device market.