Blog post!

Designing smart and affordable medical technology

by Stephen Wilson

Paul Yock from Stanford medical school/Biodesign gave a talk recently on the future of medical technology. Back in the day, he developed a method for performing angioplasty with just one person (it used to require two). Interestingly, when angioplasties were first being performed, there was generally a 40% chance for renarrowing of the artery, and nobody knew why. He then developed a catheter with an ultrasound beacon. This allowed for more highly resolved studies of the coronary artery, and from these studies doctors found that the high renarrowing rate was due to unintentional outer wall damage to the artery from the balloon. This ultimately led to the development of the stint, which greatly mitigated artery damage.

The rest of the talk was a vision for where the medtech field is going in the future. A large percentage of growing healthcare costs are due to the development and application of new technologies. However, not all of them are practical. As the world population grows so does the demand for affordable medical solutions (U.S. Medtech growth = ~1-2% per year vs. India/China = ~10-20% per year).

At Stanford Biodesign, they developed a rigorous workflow for assessing medical needs, conceptualizing solutions, evaluating practicalities, and executing an optimal solution. It comes across as a really well-designed program. However, they largely focus on innovation based around currently existing technology (i.e. improving design, lowering cost, etc.). They don’t really focus on the discovery/innovation of novel technologies to treat unmet need.

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