When someone goes into cardiac arrest, survival depends on how quickly the heart can be restarted. Enter Amazon’s Echo, a voice-driven computer that answers to the name of Alexa, which can recite life-saving instructions about cardiopulmonary resuscitation, a skill taught to it by the American Heart Association. Alexa is accumulating other health-care skills, too, including acting as a companion for the elderly and answering questions about children’s illnesses. In the near future she will probably help doctors with grubby hands to take notes and to request scans, as well as remind patients to take their pills.
Alexa is one manifestation of a drive to disrupt an industry that has so far largely failed to deliver on the potential of digital information. Health care is over-regulated and expensive to innovate in, and has a history of failing to implement ambitious IT projects. But the momentum towards a digital future is gathering pace. Investment into digital health care has soared.
Image Credit: Dave Simonds
As I outlined in my open letter to regulators, the long-term sustainability of healthcare systems could be solved by automation powered by digital health technologies, such as artificial intelligence, 3D-printing or robotics. The latter could take over monotonous work from healthcare workers, which would allow them to focus more on patients and to have lesser workload.
The way automation cuts out repetitive and monotonous tasks from the human work schedule fits into a decades-long (or even centuries-long) global trend thriving to make people’s lives easier and more comfortable. Experts such as Elon Musk, Tesla-CEO and other believe that technologies and automation through robotics might even push for the introduction of universal basic income. Even if it does not happen any time soon, it is already visible that robotics is skyrocketing. The global medical robotic systems market was worth $5.48 billion in 2011 and is expected to reach $13.6 billion in 2018, growing at a compounded annual growth rate of 12.6% from 2012. Surgical robots are expected to enjoy the largest revenue share.
For this reason, it is of utmost importance to keep an eye on robotics companies and start-ups with the mission to build a more democratic, transparent and efficient healthcare through their technological innovation. Here are the most promising ones!
By Bertalan Meskó, MD, PhD | Medical Futurist
Image Credit: Wired
Say the term ‘power suit’ and most people think of bold corporate attire. But the expression takes on new meaning when it refers to a powered “exoskeleton,” like Ellen Ripley’s power loader in “Aliens,” or Iron Man’s armor from the Marvel films and comic books.
Until a few years ago, such exoskeletons — metal frameworks fitted with motorized “muscles” that can multiply the wearers’ strength far beyond that of normal humans — were entirely fictional. The only real-world exoskeletons were the natural external coverings of animals such as beetles and crabs; protective outer structures that provide a stiff frame upon which their muscles can push against to move their bodies around.
By Steven Ashley | NBC News
Image Credit: U.S. Bionics
In many industries, the advance of robotics has created worries about robots supplanting humans. But in the world of surgery, the next generation of robotics is set to do the opposite—to supercharge the surgeon and put him in control as never before.
Intuitive Surgical’s da Vinci system defined the first generation of general surgical robotics. It promised a revolution in surgery and is today used for hundreds of thousands of procedures annually. The da Vinci System “is powered by robotic technology that allows the surgeon’s hand movements to be translated into smaller, precise movements of tiny instruments inside the patient’s body,” according to the company. The surgeon is provided with a high-definition, 3D window on the operative world through a laparoscope also operated by one of the robot’s arms. Characteristics of first-generation robotic surgery systems include the large size and physical dominance of the operating room, the placing of the surgeon into a console outside the sterile field, and surgeons receiving feedback limited mostly to visual cues on-screen.
Image Credit: Intuitive Surgical
Researchers from South Korea have engineered a strain of bacteria that infiltrates tumors and fools the body’s immune system into attacking cancer cells. In experiments, the modified bacteria worked to reduce cancer in mice, raising hope for human trials.
In a study published today in Science Translational Medicine, a research team led by biologists Joon Haeng Rhee and Jung-Joon Min from Chonnam National University in South Korea describe a new immunotherapy in which a bioengineered strain of Salmonella is converted into a biological version of the fabled Trojan Horse. Once inside an unsuspecting tumor, the modified bacteria transmits a signal that triggers nearby immune cells into launching an attack on the malignant cells.
Image Credit: NIH
This year marks the 10th edition of our World’s Most Innovative Companies ranking. Our reporting team sifts through thousands of enterprises each year, searching for those that tap both heartstrings and purse strings and use the engine of commerce to make a difference in the world. Impact is among our key criteria.
Click on a company to learn more about why it made the list.
By Fast Company | Image Credit: Fast Company
3D printing has had and will continue to have impacts on many areas. One of the most hotly anticipated areas for 3D printing to impact is medicine. A myriad of stories have appeared pointing to all manner of exciting innovations in the medical field. Sadly many of the “3D printed ear/nose/heart/ etc.” stories have been rather disingenuous or are at the very least very optimistic. To give you a more accurate view of the possibilities of 3D printing in medicine we’ll look at one particular area: surgery. In surgery there are a number of things happening currently with 3D printing and a number of things that may happen. In general we can say that 3D printing will have a considerable impact on surgery in the near term but that we can not fully predict future impacts at this moment. First we will look at what is happening right now in medical offices, surgical theaters and in patients.
Image Credit: Materialise