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December 18, 2021

Med Tech worth geeking out about

Technology innovations are bringing healthcare home–and beyond.

Telehealth use has exploded–up 154% in just one year. But it’s fast rise has left behind other aspects of care that provide people with a truly virtual experience. Most notably, patient monitoring–the kind of kick-the-tires care that can so far only be accomplished with an in-person physical exam. 

That’s changing, however. And fast. New remote monitoring and self-testing devices are hitting the market with unprecedented frequency–and others are in the pipeline–making it increasingly possible to get more of your care without ever leaving home.  Everything from smart hospital beds to connected wearables to digital medicines are making remote monitoring a thing of the present rather than the future.  

Here’s a look at some of the tech innovations that are already here–some for a while–that we can’t help geeking out about. 

Digital Medicines 

Imagine sensors embedded into a pill that can not only track adherence but also self-report a medication’s effectiveness and provide feedback about patients’ responses to the therapy. Things like heart rate, temperature or body posture. They’ve been around for a few years but have struggled to gain acceptance. Proteus Digital Health was the first to receive FDA approval, however it was recently forced into bankruptcy. Although the company has more than 20 sensor-equipped medications, the price tag–in some cases double the cost of an “analogue” pill–have been a deterrent to adoption. 

Timesulin 

More than 7 million people take insulin to treat diabetes. Timesulin is a bit of tech launched almost a decade ago to help forgetful diabetics stay on track. It fits on the tip of most insulin pens and lets patients know when their last dose was administered. More than 200,000 diabetics now use it–and there are dozens of competitors in the space. It’s a brilliant idea that has spawned even more tech solutions for patient at-home care.

Printable prescription pills

For a few years now, reports of printable medications have popped up in the news. In 2017, researchers at the University of Michigan printed a cancer treatment using a method borrowed from vapor-jet printing, in which fine crystals of material are deposited on a substrate surface–in this case cancer-fighting active ingredients on a pill. 

3D-printed drugs have already been approved by the FDA because their porous structure, which is more easily absorbed by the body. As far as we can tell, it is only being used for treating epilepsy (Aprecia Pharmaceuticals’ Spritam), but imagine the possibilities of printable pills.

Hospitals and pharmacies could print meds on demand. Or, instead of a patient taking multiple pills, what if active ingredients for all the pills were printed onto one tablet? Or, how about a specially formulated dose/mix of medicines personalized to a patient’s genetic makeup? Truly astounding, in our opinion. 

Home (and beyond) diagnostics

A single drop of blood can tell you a lot about your health. At home. Or even in space. That’s the beauty of a device developed by rHealth. This, from the company’s website: “The rHEALTH® instrument and SKYE sensor provide comprehensive analytical information for blood and vitals. An individual, even an astronaut crew member, can perform full self-diagnosis without technical training.” Cool. So cool even NASA used it.

Digiceuticals

A variety of tech is being used to help treat, manage or prevent a variety of health conditions. 

Big Health’s Sleepio uses cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) via an app to change behaviors that lead to better sleep. 

reSET, created by Pear Therapeutics, is a mobile medical app that provides around-the-clock, 7-days-a-week therapy for patients suffering from substance abuse disorder. It’s the first FDA-authorized treatment that has proven to increase abstinence and treatment retention.

MoovCare is a web-based patient-reported follow-up solution for lung cancer patients. When it comes to beating this disease, early detection is everything. It asks patients simple questions that have been shown to detect relapses or complications and increase survival by nearly 8 months. 

Quantum Computing

Yes, quantum computing is already a thing. IBM even makes the hardware. Why is this exciting? If you know anything about quantum anything, it’s a strange mind-bender. 

Take spooky action at a distance (aka quantum entanglement), for instance–two atoms meet and forever become responsive toward each other no matter where in the universe they are. Or consider wave-function collapse in which an outcome can be anything but only one thing when it is observed. Like Schrödinger's cat. It can be alive or dead depending on the who, what and when of an observation (measurement), a problem that ultimately gives rise to the possibility of multiverses. 

Quantum computing takes advantage of these bizarre properties (and others) to do what classic computers can’t–solve complex problems. And there are few things as complex as our bodies and brains. Harnessing the computational might of these computers just might unlock how cancer can be conquered at a genetic level and so much more. That’s something truly worth geeking out about.


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