Technology is something which surrounds us in everyday life, be it mobile phones,household appliances or games consoles, however, medical technology is an area which is overlooked by the masses and like all other forms of modern technology, is experiencing rapid innovation.The fact that medical technology has the potential to help the lives of so many people and that it  fuses science with technology accentuates the fascination of this field.

The UK is one of the leaders of the medical technology boom,  home to 500,000 registered medical technology companies and achieving revenues of £21bn last year.However, these statistics have justification with the developments some of the companies have been able to achieve.

One firm,CMR Surgical, makes robots which are able to complete keyhole surgery.Keyhole surgery is a type of surgery which involves working within very small incisions with special instruments and techniques e.g. fibre optics and allows for reduced pain and quicker recovery for patients.The robots themselves are controlled by a surgeon sitting at a console using two joysticks and and a three dimensional screen.

Keyhole surgery in itself is extremely difficult to perform and can only be done by top surgeons.It involves 80 hours of teaching and even then some surgeons can’t master the skill.Contrastingly, it  only takes half an hour to teach using the robot,Versius, showing the extent of benefits this technology could have, allowing more surgeons the ability to perform keyhole surgery.

I know what you are thinking, how in the world are the NHS going to  be able to utilise this technology in their problematic state.However CMR intend to implement Versius in over half a dozen NHS hospitals in the next six months.This isn’t always the case with the NHS however.

Owlstone, another medical technology company are developing technology which will be able to detect cancer  using breath tests.It will thus aim to detect for a range of tumours using a chemical sensor on a silicon microchip.The initial breath analysis will aim to detect lung, bowel,oesophagus and stomach cancer.

Volatile organic compounds are produced all around the body and are consequently distributed around the bloodstream.Within the lungs gas exchange not only deals with O2 and CO2, these volatile organic compounds are able to  diffuse through the alveoli  and into the exhaled air.Therefore these volatile organic compounds prove a very useful biomarker to detect many types of disease including cancer.

Whilst this technology has huge potential to cut costs, reduce waiting lists and improve overall health,issues with the NHS ,as I hinted at previously,arise.  The pioneers of the tech company state it is frustrating that ‘Cost is a factor.’ and the NHS can only afford so much which unfortunately limits the benefits this technology has to offer.This theme is evident with lots of other medical technologies due to the high prices involved simply being too costly for the NHS to provide.

In the last decade much of the innovation within medical technology was on equipment hardware , aimed to aid diagnosis and monitoring of conditions and also consumables for example devices and tools.This decade innovation has centred around wearables such as patient monitoring devices, big data and health tracking apps in line with advancements in handheld appliances. The future of  innovation for medical technology is likely to take place within AI,robotics and augmented reality.  

However many questions concerning the  future of medical technology remain unanswered.Whilst patients are currently comfortable with the technology used, will patients be willing to see AI based doctors or will they prefer the reassurance of human interaction and similarly will patients want to have robots perform surgery on them with the potential of failure or would they prefer a highly trained surgeon.However, with the ever growing population of the planet and subsequent pressure on countries’ healthcare services, medical technology may be the only way to keep up with the growing demands on healthcare.

Fozy Ahmed

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