December 14-15, 2017

MedTech Impact 2017

Venetian/Palazzo Resort

Las Vegas, NV

(561) 893-8633

info@medtechimpact.com

Category: Digital Technology

Fighting Pain Without Painkillers

Statistics indicate that 140 people die each day from drug overdoses in the United States—most of them linked to opioids and painkillers. Due to the increasingly severe public health crisis, companies are now manufacturing new devices to replace addictive painkillers, and innovators are looking to technology for groundbreaking, inventive ways to tackle the increasingly critical opioid crisis.

A team of researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have founded Biobot Labs, merging a research collaboration between the departments of biological engineering and urban studies and planning. The ultimate goal was to design technology that “analyzes human waste flowing through the sewers at various points throughout the system,” and to test the wastewater systems for metabolized traces of various substances in order to isolate the places with the highest concentrations of opioid—or any drug—users. Co-founder and CEO of Biobot Labs Newsha Ghaeli has stated that the goal is to shift data collection away from overdose and death, and instead focus on overdose prevention and early detection.

New clinical trials have demonstrated considerable success for a device known as a spinal cord stimulator, engineered to alleviate back pain. After implanting the experimental device under the skin at the spine base, the technology sends a mild electric current to the spinal cord’s nerve fibers. Scientists believe that the therapy, known as neuromodulation or neurostimulation, interrupts the pain signals that are carried from the nerves to the brain. While the idea was originally conceived in the 1960s, recent years have seen the technology expand and grow.

Other less-invasive devices that can be used outside the body, and do not require surgery, stimulate the peripheral nerves: the network of nerves that connect the brain and spinal cord. Cleveland-based SPR Therapeutics, which received FDA clearance last year for its device, involves a simple nonsurgical procedure in which a tiny wire is placed under the skin—near the nerves—and connected externally to the stimulator, which can be worn anywhere on the body.

As opioid use and abuse in the United States has skyrocketed, these new medical devices could offer drug-free alternatives for some patients. Michael Leong, a pain specialist at the Stanford University School of Medicine, states that the benefit of these devices is that when patients use them, they are able to fake fewer or no pharmaceuticals. “People are afraid of opioids right now. There’s a stigma. Patients don’t want to be on opioids,” he says.

Wireless Wearables: Potential to Predict Disease 

A recent study at the 2016 Clinical Congress of the American College of Surgeons confirms the burgeoning theory that wearable health technology, an innovation that has progressively gained traction in medical and consumer arenas, can positively affect healthcare and patients’ wellness. Moreover, researchers have found that data from smartwatches have the capabilities to both detect—and even predict—the onset of disease.

Because a large segment of the population utilizes smartwatches, an enormous amount of data and metrics portray a more comprehensive overview of health, as opposed to a solitary visit to the doctor. Researchers from Stanford University conducted a study during which they gave participants smartwatches, and subsequently analyzed almost a year of the data. Measurements included skin temperature, heart rate, and data collected from sleep.

When analyzing the data, the team found that ‘out-of-the-ordinary measurements’—specifically heart rate—had strong correlations with health issues like the common cold. Additionally, more detailed data was collected from several participants, for two years. Researchers evaluated this data, and chose the four dates during which measurements were out of the ordinary: the heart rate and skin temperature were specifically elevated. During a period when the measurements were abnormal, the participant had developed Lyme disease; during the other periods, he had a fever, or the common cold.

These measurements have strong correlations with inflammation, suggesting that the data was able to pinpoint and pick up on signs of inflammation. Other participants who were ill during the period they used smartwatches demonstrated measurements of elevated heart rate and skin temperatures. Moreover, in a separate experiment, the team found that insulin resistance had a connection to body mass index and heart rate—the latter of which was measured by a smartwatch.

The simplicity behind wearing a fitness wristband, and any wearable health technology, can more easily help surgeons detect which patients are at risk for complications. Evidence-based studies have demonstrated that the integration of wireless technology strongly correlates with ‘postoperative quality-of-life data,’ and reinforces research that surgeons should consistently track their patients’ results and quality of life.

These findings reaffirm the belief that surgeons have the capability to routinely measure patient-centered results–including anxiety, postoperative pain, and the ease with which patients can perform daily tasks and activities. While surgeons do not regularly practice this type of aftercare, and follow up on patients’ recovery, this monitoring system establishes an exciting and inventive kind of versatility, portability, and ultimate healthcare awareness that should be incorporated and put into practice.

The idea that smartwatches can predict and detect disease could become a widespread phenomenon, which would ultimately become an accessible and convenient tool for diagnosis. Wearables may have the potential to eliminate doctor visits, particularly for people who have geographical or monetary difficulties.

How Virtual Reality Can Change Medical Technology

Extensive research and data indicate that Virtual and Augmented Reality have the potential to change the face of medical technology: more importantly, the ways in which medical device designers operate, innovative, and create.

Yet the technologies have inevitable hurdles to overcome, despite the enormous progresses and successes in the past decade. While patients are incontrovertibly benefiting from the experience of virtual reality in certain areas, experts agree that in order for AR and VR to “disrupt” medical technology, the intrinsic challenges must be explained, understood, and faced.

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