19 Feb Innovations galore at the 2008 Medical Design Excellence Awards
Los Angeles, Calif. – I’m here now in Los Angeles serving as a judge in the 2008 Medical Design Excellence Awards (MDEA), which is a premier competition for medical products, devices and technologies. I also published a column on 2007’s competition.
We actually haven’t finished our deliberations yet, and even if we had, I wouldn’t be able to tell you about the winners.
Winning products will be announced in the April edition of Medical Device & Diagnostic Industry magazine. The winners will also be presented with gold- or silver-level MDEA trophies at the competition’s ceremony in June, which will be held in conjunction with the Medical Design & Manufacturing East Conference & Exposition being held in New York City.
Suppliers to MDEA-winning products are also named as official suppliers to 2008 MDEA winners and are permitted to use a special logo in association with their products.
We have observed some significant and accelerating trends among the technologies we’re seeing. While we see these trends embodied in individual products, they also represent significant changes that we’re seeing in how medicine is being practiced and how health care is being delivered. Among these trends, we see:
• Increasing use of wireless technologies.
• More point of care and home-based technologies.
• Close integration of diagnostics and therapeutics.
There’s no surprise here. Wireless technologies (including Bluetooth in selected cases) are being increasingly implemented among medical technologies. As a consequence we are going to see less and less wires strung about the hospital, the OR, and the doctor’s office.
Again, without giving away details, we are seeing wireless patient monitors, wireless cardiac monitors, wireless sensors of various sorts. This is not a new trend but nevertheless one that is accelerating. In addition, we have seen with some of the products submitted an emphasis on reliability and seamlessness in the wireless connections which appears to have been a problem in first- generation products.
More point of care, home-based technologies
We are seeing more and more products that bring care directly to the patient instead of requiring transportation of the patient or the blood/tissue sample, etc. to a centralized, separate facility. We have seen, for example, a truly portable CT scanner that can literally be pushed around like a frankfurter cart (without the umbrella, of course) around the streets of New York.
Another (not to be underestimated) advantage of such technology is that it effectively “disintermediates” (see below) some processes in health care. In other words, the ability to have an intraoperative CT obviates in some cases the need for a follow-up CT scan and then a potential second operation.
Miniaturization has been the major enabling force behind this trend. Another example we have seen is a handheld ultrasound machine that makes possible the closer integration of ultrasound into the physical examination of the patient rather than relegating the ultrasound study to a later time at a different facility.
We saw another device that allows clinicians at the bedside to ascertain with a handheld device (that’s connected to a PDA) the presence of a brain hematoma (bleeding around the brain) without having to transport the patient to a CT scanner.
Closing the loop between diagnostics, therapeutics
We saw a surprisingly large number of products that bring the diagnostic and therapeutic process closer together and (in some cases) deliver diagnostic and therapeutic capability in one package.
One example was a very sophisticated dental device for producing dental implants in which one component of the device digitally scans an image of the teeth and the other – as a computer console – designs the implant. The last component actually fabricates the final implant.
This is one seamless system that truly integrates the evaluation (diagnostic) process with the final therapeutic implementation. The portable CT scanner mentioned above is yet another example of technology enabling a closer integration between diagnosis and therapy.
Another example product we saw was a system that allowed brachytherapy (radiation therapy) “seeds” to be produced directly as a result of the initial ultrasound evaluation. This enables those seeds to be surgically implanted at the same sitting.
Many processes in health care involve a fairly involved sequence of steps. “Disintermediation” is a business term in which one or more of those steps is taken away, rendered irrelevant, or otherwise substituted.
For example, brachytherapy often involves an initial diagnostic step (utilizing, for example, ultrasound to map out the diseased tissue) followed by a fabrication step in which the radioactive seeds are fabricated and then an implantation step in which the seeds are surgically implanted in the cancerous tissues. Having a device enable all those steps in one seamless operation is an example of disintermediation.
We have seen other examples of this as well. The dental implant scanning, design and fabrication device noted above also disintermediates several steps in the dental implant process. While having a handheld ultrasound machine certainly will not eliminate all conventional ultrasound exams, it will certainly substitute for some of those studies while enhancing the traditional physical exam of the patient.
We saw quite a few other developments: an increased number of home-based medical devices, further proliferation of “smart” devices and software-driven devices that enhance safety and capabilities. We were somewhat dismayed at some devices that continued to propagate proprietary technologies rather than fostering standardization and interoperability.
We were also concerned at some products that didn’t incorporate enough aesthetic design. A very small number of products also seemed be wildly expensive, and while we recognize the substantial costs involved in product development and cost is not our leading criteria for prize worthiness, these examples did raise some concern with respect to their impact on medical cost inflation.
Overall, though, this was an exceptionally strong year for medical design excellence and innovation. The industry will be very pleased to learn of the winners later this spring.
What do Iraq and Afghanistan have to do with the MDEA? As one famous surgeon once said, the one indisputable “benefit” of war was in the training of young surgeons.
Indeed, a number of products were brought to the table that have emerged out of combat experience with injuries and trauma. Without trying to be political, it can be said that at least some good things have come out of that very difficult and challenging situation.
Previous articles by Ogan Gurel
• Ogan Gurel: Innovation versus invention: Why accelerating development makes sense
• Ogan Gurel: Fostering innovation doesn’t occur in a vacuum
• Ogan Gurel: Innovation vs. invention: Knowing the difference makes a difference
• Ogan Gurel: Lessons from the deconstruction of Amgen
• Ogan Gurel: Crazy like a Google? With GE-Abbott deal scrapped, could Google be next buyer?
He is also an adjunct associate professor of bioengineering at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Dr. Gurel has a Bachelor’s degree in Biochemical Sciences from Harvard, earned his M.D. degree from the Columbia University College of Physicians & Surgeons and completed surgical internship at the Massachusetts General Hospital. As a health care technology expert and futurist, Gurel has been a frequent conference speaker worldwide. His particular focus has been on convergent medical technologies including medical nanotechnology. In addition to the
This article previously appeared in MidwestBusiness.com, and was reprinted with its permission.
The opinions expressed herein or statements made in the above column are solely those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Wisconsin Technology Network, LLC.
WTN accepts no legal liability or responsibility for any claims made or opinions expressed herein.Wisconsin Technology Network, his commentaries have been published in the Wall Street Journal and other print and online venues. His regular blog on life sciences, business and investment can be found here.