Item: CompuCyte Corp., Cambridge, MA, announces a new machine called Pathfinder that automatically digitizes, stores, and communicates an electronic record on how a microscope user screens a biopsy specimen. Expected benefit: more reliable test results.
Item: United States Surgical Corp., Norwalk, CT, introduces a device to help surgeons remove large veins from legs for use in heart bypass operations. Removal can now be through four one-and-a-half-inch incisions rather than one long incision from the groin to the ankle. Expected benefit: reduced pain, scarring, and recovery time.
Item: Advanced Tissue Sciences, La Jolla, CA, manufactures new skin from the living skin that's a byproduct of infant circumcisions. Applications: new skin for burn victims, new cartilage, and new heart valves. Expected benefit: eventual elimination of the problem of a shortage of donor organs.
Those are just a few of the medical stories that have been in the news lately, and they point out an important fact all too often missing in the health-care debate: Technology is one of the prime reasons people live longer and healthier today.
It comes from new companies such as those mentioned above, and more established ones, such as Hewlett Packard, General Electric, Johnson & Johnson, Ethi-con, Medtronics, Siemens, Thermo Cardiosystems, W. R. Grace, DuPont, Dow, Welch Allen, and hundreds of others. And it is conceived and nurtured by individuals such as the late Rowland Redington (MRI machines), Terry Haber (safe needles), and Vic Poirier (heart-assist devices)--all former Design News Engineers of the Year-- medical doctor and engineer Robert Jarvik (artificial hearts), Dom Dana (former Design News Special Achievement Award winner and pioneer in video endoscopes), and Don Maurer (transcutaneous electri cal nerve stimulation). Their efforts have put the word "life" in the phrase "quality of life."
And, that leads to an interesting conclusion: The real health-care providers today are not the insurance companies and health-maintenance organizations. They are none other than the engineers designing medical devices. We owe them our thanks.