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Med Tech Roundup: Three Categories of Tech That Will Save Healthcare


Researchers at Imperial College in London have created a smart surgical “iKnife” that knows when tissue being cut is cancerous or not with effectively perfect accuracy. The AP has the story:

Surgeons often find it impossible to tell by sight where tumors end and healthy tissue begins, so some cancer cells are often left behind. A fifth of breast cancer patients who have lumpectomy surgery need a second operation.

The new “iKnife” is designed to get round the problem by instantly sampling the smoke given off as tissue is cut through using an electric current to see if it is cancerous

Reducing costly repeat operations through smart technology isn’t the only fascinating medical tech story this week. Medical Press reports on a new “smart sponge” that doctors can inject into diabetic patients. It releases doses of insulin in responses to changing blood sugar levels. Given that taking medicine and treatments improperly is a big cause of costly and dangerous inefficiencies in health care, self-releasing doses like this could have a significant impact in many areas, including cancer treatment.

At VM, we see a crucial connection between medical tech and health care policy. In particular, we think there are three categories of med tech that have the ability to bring us better, cheaper health care. First, there’s “information-age” advances—ones involving the use of big data and massive networks to revolutionize health care delivery. Second, there’s tech that empowers individuals and leads to disintermediation in the health care industry, such as health monitoring apps for smartphones, or diagnostic tools and treatments that can be administered by health care professionals with less training than full-fledged medical doctors or specialists. Third, there’s innovations that make existing treatments cheaper and more effective by eliminating re-admissions and similar cost-drivers (stories like the two above).

We’ll continue to follow examples of these three categories, tracing their relation to policy.

[Hospital technology image courtesy of Shutterstock]

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  • Joshua Rosenblum

    Unfortunately, the biggest hurdle will be the regulatory environment and the culture of doctors themselves. I make extensive use of the second category being an avid fan of the quantified self. I collect a lot of data on myself, unfortunately, whenever I go to a doctor with my charts and spreadsheets, they look at me like I have three heads. We have a great opportunity to move from population-centric medicine to individualized medicine, but the medical culture has to change first.

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