New electronic component technologies with advanced
capabilities and features are enabling the development of smaller medical
devices, as well as the creation of technologies for faster and more compact
imaging systems. Significant new components include low-power parts, real-time
digital signal processors (DSP), FPGA control and fiber optics. Also, advanced
technologies such as wireless, GPS, Smartphone and machine-to-machine interface
are having a transformative impact on the medical device industry.
New low-power components
combined with new circuitry and battery technology enable enhanced development
of innovative handheld and portable medical devices. These component and system
improvements extend battery life, reduce product size, lower costs, increase
safety and require fewer battery changes throughout the lifetime of a device.
TechEn's customers often use low-power components, such as PIC XLP MCUs or TI MSP 430 parts to achieve this most
important capability and to differentiate their products in the marketplace.
The newer microprocessors, DSP
chips and FPGA components offer fast (sub-microsecond) and reliable functions
for acquisition of sensor inputs and processing the results in real time.
Components such as Analog Devices' SHARC
and Microchip's dsPIC enable powerful analysis of acquired sensor data,
offering new understandings to improve patient care.
One example of powerful DSP
components is the emerging medical use of non-invasive, portable optical
imaging technology. With the introduction of very fast real-time processing,
optical imaging technology has advanced from research into translational
medical products that address critical patient needs. DSP technology processes
detected optical signals and measures changes in blood hemoglobin during
activation in tissue (muscle and brain). Such technology is being used to help
assess concussions and traumatic brain injury (TBI) and potentially offers
medical benefits that complement functional magnetic resonant imaging (fMRI).
Other optical imaging applications are being developed to advance the
understanding for such critical areas as mammography and breast cancer screenings,
pain and pain management and cochlear implants for young children.
Other recent examples of
medical-electronics applications that are component-driven include implantable
devices (cardiac rhythm management, neural stimulation, drug delivery, bariatric
therapy); portable devices (diagnostic imaging, oxygen therapy, patient
monitoring); home-use devices (vital-sign monitoring, disease management,
rehabilitation, compliance monitoring and medical information terminals); and
security (authentication of consumables and data confidentiality), according to
Microchip Technology Inc. The use of accelerometers, vibrators and mc/speaker
tones also provide new opportunities for ease of use and increased device
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New technologies as well as
components are being introduced to advance medical products. High-speed, new RF
wireless (nRF) modules, robust GPS and M2M will have a transformative impact on
the delivery of medical care. Driven by an aging population, improved wireless
modules will enable significant advancements to support senior living and home
care with wearable patient monitoring. Devices will collect and send patient
data in real time to their primary care physician, and patients will then
receive feedback and analysis. The analysis will be based on their personal
data records and a database library of reliable health informatics. These
real-time capabilities combined with management of patient data will be used to
more effectively enable patient home care, with improved compliance and outcomes,
at lower costs. Two-way, interactive RF wireless data communications will
enable faster, lower-cost and more effective treatments and home care.
New low-cost global
positioning satellite (GPS) technologies with improved resolution will enable
future devices to provide both incremental evolution as well as transformative
impacts. As an example, in the future GPS will be used to track location within
challenging hospital environments for supplies and equipment, and for patients
in assisted living homes.
capabilities evolve from components and software that will enable medical
devices to transmit data to collection points that process, display critical
information and flag medical anomalies of interest that may be inconsistent
with previous patterns. M2M represents a "disruptive" technology that may
change medical procedures and decision making in hospitals.
The emergence of powerful new
embedded platforms and Smartphone applications are providing high expectations
for delivery of point-of-care monitoring. With increases in processing power,
graphics performance and power consumption, medical professionals, caregivers
and patients expect enhanced capabilities and ease-of-use from the devices. The
development of small embedded devices and displays will enable the use of apps
or single-purpose medical devices. Notwithstanding regulations, these products
offer the great potential for lower-cost home care and compliance monitoring.
As an example, an innovative product jointly using an iPhone and app solution
lets users self-monitor their blood pressure from the convenience of their
home, track results, and share the data or graphical results with friends,
family and most importantly, their doctor.
There are many challenges that
exist in the development of electronic medical products using new components
and technologies. Designers of medical electronic devices must make trade-offs
from competing product requirements including power, size and cost, achieving
performance criteria for noise, linearity, reliability, EMI and government
regulations. Also, to meet the technical, performance and regulatory
requirements, medical device design requires understanding of each medical
application. Knowledge of regulatory requirements and experience with the
medical approvals processes are essential to achieve successful innovation.
New electronic components are
a vital link in the innovation of
medical devices. With the increased
market demands for worldwide health care solutions, medical devices are focused
on portable, low-power, specialized devices. Next-generation successful medical
devices will emerge that are based on high-value electronic components that
offer lower risk for ease of regulatory approval. Longer term, real-time,
interactive medical electronic devices will provide a sizable market for even
smarter devices with enhanced capabilities. New electronic component
technologies offer exciting opportunities to successfully achieve effective
delivery of improved patient care at lower costs.Arthur DiMartino is president of TechEn Inc.