This month, we at Pivot will be attending the Medical Design and Manufacturing West conference in Anaheim, Calif.
While non-designers probably don’t find much to get excited about in that title, those of us who work in product design and engineering – like you, most likely, if you’re reading this! – are already looking forward to this chance to see some of the amazing medtech innovations that have been developed over the past few years.
That includes everything from 3D printed molds for medical tools, to a miniscule antenna for intraocular implants to treat people with glaucoma.
Medtech is one of the most exciting fields for innovators to be working in today – at least, if you ask us. We’ve worked on several medical products over the years, and we always enjoy collaborating with the designers and companies that are working to improve people’s lives through safer, smarter medical products.
In that spirit, here’s our take on three incredible medtech innovations of the past few years.
Migraine blocker – the ATI Neurostimulation System
Anyone who suffers from migraines or cluster headaches knows how utterly debilitating they can be. While there’s no cure for these kinds of headaches, one company called Autonomic Technologies is developing and testing a neurostimulation implant that is embedded permanently in a patient’s cheek. The device is positioned at a specific nerve bundle, the SPG nerve bundle, which has long been associated with the worst types of headaches.
At the onset of a headache, the patient uses a remote control to turn on the neurostimulator, which stimulates the SPG nerve bundle and can relieve the patient’s pain. The therapy is completely patient-controlled and can be done anywhere, at any time.
Needle-free glucose monitoring
Diabetics often have to prick their fingers up to six or eight times a day to test their blood sugar – which is not only painful, but inconvenient, to boot.
Now, however, there are ways that diabetics can safely monitor their glucose without having to draw blood. According to Popular Science, a team at the University of California San Diego has invented a stick-on tattoo that, using electrodes, creates a current that draws glucose molecules up toward the skin. Glucose is carried by positively-charged sodium ions, and the device tests the strength of that positive charge to determine glucose levels.
Tests on non-diabetic people have been successful, and the researchers believe the tattoos could be available to diabetics for just a few cents each.
Another method of non-invasive testing is the GlucoTrack, a monitor that uses an earlobe clip-on to determine blood glucose levels. The GlucoTrack is expected to go into clinical trials this year.
Telemedicine, or connecting patients to doctors via telecommunication technology, has been in use for a while now, especially in rural areas that are underserved by hospitals and specialists. In these cases, patients in small clinics or, sometimes, children in rural schools, are connected with the doctors they need via videoconference.
Now that’s being taken even farther. Children’s Medical Center in Dallas, for example, has started a telemedicine program for their young patients who receive organ transplants. Recovery time after a transplant operation is lengthy, and until now, usually required a long hospital stay. That’s hard on the child, who often falls behind in school and isn’t able to see her friends, as well as the child’s family.
At Children’s Medical Center, however, patients are being allowed to recuperate at home instead. After a transplant, children are sent home with a tablet, a blood pressure cuff, a weight scale, and a pulse oximeter. They or their parents then send the data they collect with those tools to the hospital via the tablet.
Future applications could even include robotic surgery conducted by surgeons who are across the country or across an ocean.
With these sorts of advances already being made, we look forward to seeing what’s next at MDM West, and connecting with other designers, developers, researchers, and engineers. And if you have a medical device you need some help developing, let us know! Schedule a free consultation with Pivot here.