Medical innovations have pushed the envelope of possibility and increased the well-being of millions. This year is no different. Doctors and researchers on the forefront of medicine and technology are enhancing patient care in a number of ways with technology spearheading the initiatives.
The contentment and extension of human life is at the core of every medical breakthrough. These five medical innovations are gaining ground in 2018—some may even see drastic improvements in their application.
Ending Disease with CRISPR Technology
Gene editing technology known as CRISPR is focused on improving the world, one DNA strand at a time. Medical innovations like this aim to improve genetic makeup by removing flaws and awakening dormant traits.
By using a protein called Cas9, scientists are able to separate genetic snippets, which is the first step in altering a DNA structure. CRISPR excels in its ability to identify particular DNA sequences. This allows scientists to clearly identify flawed or malfunctioning DNA segments. The flawed segments can then be removed from DNA, leaving behind a more ideal DNA strand.
Cas9 is assigned an RNA sequence that pairs with the RNA of the flawed DNA portion. This allows Cas9 to locate and inject its RNA into the flawed DNA portion. The following chemical reaction forces a split in the DNA at the flawed portion. In some cases, Cas9 places native and unflawed DNA segments into the section of the DNA where the flaw has been removed in order to get the cell to function properly again.
CRISPR technology has wide-ranging applications, spanning from human gene therapy to agriculture and animals. Diseases like cancer and other inherited ailments can literally be erased from genetics. A main focal point for CRISPR technology is fixing genetic defects, such as retinal disease, in humans.
Before gene editing makes muscles bigger and hair thicker, it will be used only on diseases where researchers have made little headway using other methods. Some retinal diseases have no cure or treatment available on the market, so CRISPR is the only option. Fortunately, the eyes are well-suited for gene editing due to their immuno-related ability.
The FDA approved gene editing for certain retinal diseases in late 2017. Now, the door is open for other gene therapies in allopathic medicine and patients have hope to preserve their ability to see.
Interest in drones spiked years ago when the first affordable and commercially successful drones hit the market. Since then, the global community has come together in an effort to solve some of the world’s problems with this new technology.
Agriculture, construction, and cinematography have taken advantage of the opportunities provided by drones. For many people affected by natural disasters, drones helped tremendously. When hurricanes wrecked Puerto Rico, drones were used to survey infrastructure and help restore telecommunication services, allowing people to call for help and receive emergency assistance.
Medical transport has also been revolutionized by drones. The U.S. has been reluctant to allow a drone free-for-all and for good reason. Without strict airspace regulation, drones may do more harm than good. But with proper regulation, drones can help transport medical supplies like blood and medication.
Africa is already seeing a huge benefit from drone-transported medical supplies. Rwanda, a country that has little in the way of roads and no railway system at all, saw great use in medical transport by drone.
The San Francisco-based drone company Zipline transported emergency medical supplies to centers in Rwanda and racked up more than 62,000 flight miles with its drones. The company now has proof of concept and seeks to expand its model to help the neighboring country of Tanzania. The government there has made a partnership with the drone company, transporting medical supplies to remote areas of Tanzania. The move is a major medical innovation for the region and serves as a glimpse of the benefit to come from drones.
On average, FDA approved vaccines cost hundreds of millions of dollars and take about a decade to develop. The current approval process for vaccines is not fit for the demands of modern day virus outbreaks and is in need of expedition.
Investors want rapid development of vaccines in order to circumvent the damage caused by pandemics and are looking into the validity of a universal vaccine—think of it like a cure-all for all flu strains.
Vaccine typicity is diversifying too. Egg-based vaccines have been problematic for some due to egg allergies and not idea for cultivation antibody properties, so new types are being developed. Recombinant, and cell-based vaccines are showing promise to improve upon vaccine creation—particularly for their ability for rapid production, making them ideal for pandemic outbreaks.
While researchers are hard at work developing state-of-the-art vaccines, companies are working on new ways to administer the doses. Children and parents cringe when they think of vaccines—mostly because of the pain and discomfort of needle injections. This has prompted companies to evaluate the validity of oral, nasal, and topical patches for inoculation.
Companies are also looking for ways to expand the logistical reach of vaccinations, opting to freeze dry shipments in order to reach remote locations. Will we see drones delivering freeze-dried vaccines on Africa?
Allopathic medicine shines in emergency care and trauma—surgery being a common method of treatment. Inpatient surgeries account for millions of annual hospital visits and the recovery process can be difficult. Problems have risen, not in the act of surgery, but in post-care protocol. Abused prescription medications created an opioid epidemic in the U.S., and many healthcare professionals intend to find better post-surgery recovery practices.
The recovery process has remained relatively unchanged for decades: opiate-based pills to manage pain and bed rest to allow healing. But the paradigm is shifting. Physicians are implementing pain pill alternatives to reduce the risk of addiction and changing the idea of bed rest post surgery. In many cases, light movement such as walking after surgery enhances the healing process; resting in bed was a commonly accepted practice just a few years ago. Nutrition is now intimately involved with the healing process rather than an afterthought.
The benefits of enhanced recovery after surgery affect both patients and hospitals. The goal of every patient is to treat their issue and return to full health, the quicker the better. These new postoperative protocols help patients do just that. One study observed a 33 percent reduction in surgical complications and a decrease of admittance to nursing facilities after surgery. The study also found a reduction in the risk of opiate abuse with the use other analgesic pain management options.
Enhanced recovery after surgery has also helped hospitals save money through decreased readmission rates and through patients spending less time in the hospital. As these new post-surgery protocols become commonplace in 2018, expect to see hospitals saving money and patients experiencing less hassle in the recovery process.
The Internet of Things, also known as IoT in an interconnected group of smart devices. This has been a hot topic since the emergence of sensor-laden devices created the need for an infrastructure to coordinate them.
Healthcare is a multi-trillion dollar industry with regular improvements from technology. As medical devices continue to advance, so does the need for a system to connect them all. Enter the Internet of Things for Healthcare.
A cloud-connected collection of medical wearables, devices, and sensors allows physicians to monitor the conditions of their patients at an unprecedented level. Troves of data are now available to doctors, enabling them to understand each individual patient’s condition on a deeper level and treat them more accurately.
Patients also stand to benefit from the technology, as they also have more access to their own health data, allowing them to make more informed decisions about their own wellness. Collecting personal health data is also fairly simple. Numerous technology companies like Apple offer wearable devices that gather the owners personal sleep, hydration, and exercise data.
But the Internet of Things for Healthcare is seeing a slow evolution, why? The medical infrastructure is enormous and full of strict protocols and procedures. Although simpler things like regular doctor’s visit can be enhanced by wearable-collected health data, more serious medical visits have yet to be fully vetted. Things like surgery and in-patient monitoring can be complex and warrant a closer examination before switching from tried and true methods.
Remote patient monitoring is nothing new, but similar to the Medical IoT, technology now offers much more robust data that enhances remote communication between patient and physician.
Smartphones and tablets have connected us in ways like never before. They allow patients to access physicians more easily, at the same time providing physicians more accurate patient health data.
Medical innovations like remote patient monitoring are much needed as the number of physicians are on the decline. People are now looking to expedite the medical process and crystal clear virtual meetings and cloud based medical documents make it possible for doctors to check on their patient from the comfort of their own home or anywhere else for that matter. The market seems to be ready for the change.
The rising costs of healthcare and time commitment of a doctor’s visit is becoming obsolete for some instances. A virtual appointment is just as effective and less costly for patients who are refilling certain prescriptions, for example.
Remote patient monitoring also makes it easier for physicians to see more patients. The number of health insurance policies is on the rise, making it challenging for doctors to see and treat the number of patients. RPM allows for quick virtual appointments and patient assessment.
Medical innovations have the power to change millions of lives for the better. With CRISPR, people may regain the precious gift of sight. An untold number of people in Africa will be able to receive medical treatment—for some, it will save their lives. Technology lends a helping hand by making communication, connectivity, and processes better than ever before. These medical innovations set the stage for the future of healthcare and the advancement of medical practices.
Traditionally, diabetics must painfully prick their finger in order to check blood for glucose levels but new closed-loop insulin delivery systems aim to change all that. The administration of insulin is automated in a closed-loop system, making it easier and less painful for diabetics to maintain healthy blood sugar levels.
The closed-loop system is also known as the artificial pancreas which operates off a monitoring device that controls an insulin pump. The system is customizable and capable of delivering insulin based on the needs of the patient.
Smart pens for insulin injection have also been a big help for diabetic patients. They are more user-friendly than the vial and syringe method but are still easy to carry around with you. Smart pens also offer more accurate insulin doses and better needle protection.
Equipped with smartphone applications and bluetooth connectivity, smart pens can track injection times, insulin units delivered, and additional information with extreme precision. These smart pens are ideal for diabetic patients that have to administer multiple injections a day.
Diabetic patients have a wide range of needs. These diabetic innovations help deliver on the individual needs of each patient. The closed-loop insulin system may work best for some while smart pens may be a better option for others.