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New medical device technology set to benefit patients

By Tim Sandle     Oct 26, 2016 in Technology
As regular readers of Digital Journal will be aware, health technology and digital health have introduced a range of important innovations. Many of these involve ‘connected technology.’ We survey five new innovations.
Research into connected devices is leading to new generation medical aids that are ending up in hands of patients. Here the world of Internet of Things technology has extended into the realm of medical device development. One of the first connected devices to appear was the so-called ‘smart’ inhaler (used for delivering medication into the body via the lungs). The device sends usage data remotely to medics, as well as to the user’s smartphone. The devices were profiled on Digital Journal earlier this year.
In selecting example devices, we’ve gone for a range, designed to showcase the technology available.
The first of the selections is the Intelligent Asthma Management Kit, from Health Care Originals. This device, profiled on App Accessories, was developed to aid in the management and treatment of chronic asthma. Many asthma patients need regular check-ups. To automate this, a smart medical device has been designed for monitoring chronic asthma. The device allows the health caregiver to gather real-time information concerning asthmatic patient, via a network. The device also alerts medical professionals if there is a serious asthma attack.
The second device is Medtronic’s “smart” insulin pumps, which have been featured on QMed. A device called the MiniMed 670G insulin pump is the first hybrid, closed-loop artificial pancreas. The device aims to provide improved patient outcomes at a low costs, compared with conventional technology.
Our third selection is a device that people can use at home, as well as part of a recovery program in a hospital, is the Valedo Back Therapy Kit. This consists of a video platform with interactive exercises to help those with back problems. There is also a connection module is attached to the patient’s lower back via smart sensors. This allows data to be stored, including responses to the exercises as well as for the collection of symptoms relating to ill-health.
Fourth is something more sophisticated, prosthetics for amputees. These are myoelectric prostheses, discussed by the British Medical Journal. These artificial arm devices are controlled by tiny voltages generated on the surface of the skin, through the activity of residual muscles. The voltage device process is described as surface electromyography. With this, the voltages are amplified and processed in way that means when the patient flexes a muscle, motors on the prosthesis move in a predictable way. The current technology is expensive, with the typical arm prosthetic costing $30,000.
The fifth and final selection has been developed by 11 Health and Technologies. It takes the form of a watch and utilizes Bluetooth technology. The ostom-i Alert Sensor signals to patients, in real time, when their ostomy pouch (or colostomy bag) is at a point where it needs to be emptied. The bags collect of waste from a surgically diverted biological system (colon, ileum, or bladder.) The alert helps to prevent any unpleasant surprises. A connected app captures data about patient output volume over a period of time so that it can be reviewed by a medical professional.
Several of the innovations profiled are featuring at BIOMEDevice San Jose, December 7–8, 2016. The event showcases emerging trends and innovations for the biomedical industry in 2017. The event features a Connected Health Device Development Summit.
One of the key selling points about connected health technology is to assess and improve medication adherence (to check that patients are using the device when they should). A further reason is to gather data about the time of day the device is used, and also to review the types of symptoms that might require a device to be used.
A concern with this type of connected technology is what do medical device companies and pharmaceutical firms do with the collected data and how secure is it?
The downside with digital health technology is security. In relation to this, for the U.S. consumer the Federal Bureau of Investigation stated that:
“Criminals can also gain access to unprotected devices used in home health care, such as those used to collect and transmit personal monitoring data or time-dispense medicines. Once criminals have breached such devices, they have access to any personal or medical information stored on the devices and can possibly change the coding controlling the dispensing of medicines or health data collection. These devices may be at risk if they are capable of long-range connectivity.”
To add to this, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has also weighed in on the security question, stipulating: “The security measures should be well coordinated among the medical device components, accessories, and system, and as needed, with a host wireless network.”
While connected medical technology offers many advantages, there are matters of privacy and security which still need to be discussed and resolved.
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