Among the medical technology trends and developments that interest me the most are those that have their fingers in many clinical applications and/or have the potential to rapidly accelerate the emergence of wholly new products and product forms.
The progressive integration of information technologies in medical devices is compelling for the number and variety of applications. So, too, is the application of information technologies into R&D of new products — predicting devices with optimum shape, size, composition and other traits (e.g., see link regarding simulation of devices in R&D).
Materials technologies also represent enormous potential to alter the nature of medical devices and the functions they provide alone and in tandem with other devices, drugs, biologicals, etc.
Medical technology is rapidly becoming synonymous with what I would call the “invisible hand”, wherein treatment is accomplished with little or no footprint (handprint?) left by the clinician’s presence. Radiosurgery, natural orifice transluminal endoscopic surgery, resorbable sutures, stents and other devices, tissue regeneration via extracellular matrices. The list of ways in which excellent clinical outcomes can be achieved with minimal complication, side-effect, collateral damage or other adverse byproduct is growing exponentially.
Another key force that is shaping developments in medical technologies is the convergence of knowledge and tools in multiple scientific disciplines. Cell biology, physiology, biochemistry, molecular biology, neurochemistry, chemistry, physics and many other disciplines are no longer “stand alone” sciences behind specific medtech developments. Experts in polymer sciences have recognized the potential for lattices to form frameworks for cellular ingrowth in tissue regeneration. Coronary stent manufacturers recognize as much the value of cell biology as flow dynamics in reducing rates of restenosis. The rates at which disciplines are coming together is correlating with the sophistication of devices succeeding in their complex environments.
It has therefore become increasingly important for manufacturers to consider their competitive landscape carefully. There is growing intolerance of treatments that do not compete with broad reach; providing high quality outcomes compared to any and all possible alternatives, of whatever technology or therapeutic approach. Both opportunity and obsolescence can come from a considerably larger range of sources.