Advancements in technology are shaking up the medical field. Today, these innovations are offering ways to tailor prescriptions to patients and detect problem areas; providing the ability to perform virtual surgeries and print 3D versions of medical devices; and improving surgical abilities and wound care techniques. Here’s a look at six innovations that have the medical community buzzing.
Six Innovations Making a Difference in the Medical Field
While non-opioid pain management strategies have gained momentum, the opioid crisis remains a big concern among the medical community. The latest innovation comes in the form of pharmacogenomic testing. This alternative to opioids analyzes a person’s genetic makeup to predict their metabolism’s reaction to opiate-based drugs. Through pharmacogenomics, physicians can also reduce the prescription of unnecessary and ineffective drugs, replacing them with effective medications tailored to the individual. Testing can also be used to determine which patients may experience little or no relief from opiate-based analgesics, leading them to overuse the drug or return for a new prescription earlier than expected. These patients are often unfairly labeled as “drug seekers” when they’re simply trying to ease pain through a drug that won’t provide relief.
2. Artificial Intelligence
No longer the stuff of science fiction movies, artificial intelligence (AI) has become part of everyday life (even if you don’t know it). Now, AI is changing the way some healthcare decisions are made with applications in decision support, image analysis, and patient triage. For example, machine learning algorithms can detect a patient’s problem areas on images, aiding in the screening process and quickly making sense of the vast amounts of data in the emergency medical record system, a major pain point that’s become a contributing factor to physician burnout.
3. Virtual and Mixed Reality
It’s no longer just for gaming! Virtual reality (VR) and mixed reality (MR), which involves the use of computer technology to create simulations and hybrid environments, has become a way for healthcare professionals to practice procedures before entering the OR. This immersive method of learning appeals to all types of learners (audio, visual and kinesthetic) and is a great way for residents to “perform” tricky procedures and for seasoned surgeons to sharpen their skills. VR therapy is also being used to help patients in chronic pain; by virtually taking a patient out of their painful reality, researchers found that patients reported a 35-50% decrease in the amount of pain they experienced while suffering no loss of cognitive ability.
4. 3D Printing
3D printing, sometimes called additive manufacturing, is the process of making three dimensional, solid objects from a digital file—and it’s transforming the medical industry. Using 3D printing technology, medical devices can now be matched to the exact specifications of a patient. This increased compatibility improves the body’s acceptance of medical devices while also improving comfort and overall performance. Today, the most significant work in this space includes external prosthetics, cranial/orthopedic implants, and customized airway stents; it’s also finding a place in surgical planning. Instead of relying on unreliable and complex two-dimensional imaging techniques, surgeons can now use a 3D printed model of the patient's anatomy to personalize preoperative planning. What does the future of 3D printing hold in the medical field? The printing of human embryonic stem cells to create tissue for testing drugs or growing replacement organs; printing skin that could replace burned or damaged skin; and printing cancer cells to study them and test out new drugs on them.
Today’s surgeries are meant to be the quickest, most precise, and least invasive as possible. And while robots are not going to completely replace the hands of a skilled surgeon, they can provide guidance for extreme precision. According to the Mayo Clinic, the most widely used clinical robotic surgical system includes a camera arm and mechanical arms with surgical instruments attached to them. The surgeon controls the arms while seated at a computer console near the operating table. The console gives the surgeon a high-definition, magnified, 3-D view of the surgical site. Using robotics to be more precise and less invasive can also aid in recovery time.
Sutures have been around since the 16th century BCE, making them the default choice for surgeons who may not be as familiar with newer wound closure technology. Now, BandGrip, Inc.—named a 2019 top orthopedic solutions provider by MedTech Outlook magazine—offers a non-invasive method of wound closure that uses micro-anchors to grip the skin and hold it together, allowing for more natural healing. BandGrip reduces the amount of time physicians need to spend on suturing with no return trip for removal. The time-saving nature of the application is also crucial in emergency situations, especially those involving mass casualty. They also reduce scarring, infection, and needlestick injuries.
It’s an exciting time to be in the medical field, and we salute all the innovators who have been working to make life better for physicians and their patients. View the video below to see BandGrip in action, or request your free samples here.