Aug 9, 2011

Medical Inventions And Discoveries

4 min
10 - Artificial pacemaker
1. X-rays X-ray technology has earned the number one spot in this top 10 list, having transformed the understanding of th...

1. X-rays

X-ray technology has earned the number one spot in this top 10 list, having transformed the understanding of the body and healthcare administration. The first X-ray image was generated in 1895 by Wilhelm Conrad Röntgen and was of his hand. The first use of X-rays in a medical setting came less than a month after Röntgen published a paper on their ability to produce images of the internal structure of the body.

The short wave lengths that X-rays have enable them to penetrate thick matter and the black, white and grey 2D images they produce are the result of varying rates of absorption of different tissues.  One of the main advances that has come as a result of X-ray technology is the CAT-scan. Using X-rays to produce 3D images of the body, the CAT scan has transformed diagnoses, enabling doctors to see not just the location, but the size and depth of tumours.

2. Stethoscope

French stethoscope inventor René Laennec came up with the idea in 1816. His initial interpretation consisted of a wooden tube, with a wide and narrow end and was similar to hearing aids of that time. Later developments of stethoscopes saw the addition of flexible tubes, double ear pieces and improved acoustics. Stethoscopes are today one of the most important tools for doctors.

3. Hypodermic syringe

Despite early forms of intravenous injections dating back to 1670, hypodermic syringes were the first to utilise needles that were fine enough to pierce the skin. Their invention in 1853 revolutionised mass healthcare administration and was quickly followed by the introduction of glass syringes in 1866 and the more recent invention of disposable plastic syringes in 1956.

4. Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)

MRI technology provides an alternative method of looking into the body without having to use potentially harmful X-rays or resorting to surgery. It was not until the late 1980s that MRI was introduced to the healthcare sector but popularity came quickly; 2002 witnessed the performance of over 60 million MRI exams and the global use of 22 million MRI cameras.

5. Radiation therapy

Radiation or radiotherapy is used across the world as a method of treating and managing cancer. Nobel-prize winning scientist Marie Curie is one of the main personalities behind its development in the 1900s. Advances in radiation therapy can be attributed to the development of technologies such as MRI, giving oncologists clearer images to better target and treat cancerous cells.

6. Thermometer

Santorio Santorio is credited with inventing the original, albeit inaccurate clinical thermometer in 1612. It was not until 1867 that Sir Thomas Allbutt came up with the first practical and precise medical thermometer, at six inches long it was portable and able to record temperatures within five minutes. Today thermometers can be found in homes, surgeries and hospitals across the world.

7. Ultrasound

The discovery and development of Ultrasound came in the mid-1900s; the first paper on medical ultrasonics was published in 1942 which was soon followed by the advance of ultrasound technology and the identification of specific applications and uses. Using sound waves to form pictures, ultrasound is now commonly used across the world in pregnancy scans and condition diagnosis.

8. Band aids

Band aids, or plasters, were invented in 1920 by Johnson & Johnson employee Earle Dickinson. His wife found it difficult to use the separate gauze and bandage dressings when she cut her fingers, so Earle attached some gauze to adhesive tape and kept it sterile by adding crinoline. His boss manufactured his invention, made him Vice-President of the company and band aids revolutionised home healthcare.

9. In vitro fertilisation (IVF)

The world’s first baby conceived as a result of IVF was born in 1978, just a few years after the first unsuccessful IVF pregnancy. After a fairly rapid succession of IVF births during the late 1970s, further advances, including the utilisation of the hCG hormone, saw IVF grow from a research project to a functional clinical fertility treatment.

10. Artificial pacemaker

In 1950, Canadian John Hopps developed the world’s first pacemaker, although being powered through AC wall sockets it came hand-in-hand with an electrocution risk and many attempts to utilise a rechargeable battery as a power source were made without success. The first wearable and implantable pacemakers were eventually developed in 1958 and the first clinical pacemaker implantation also took place.

Share article

Dec 10, 2018

Top 10 healthcare innovations for 2019

medical devices
Top 10
Catherine Sturman
6 min
healthcare innovations
We take a look at some of the top 10 healthcare innovations which are transforming the sector

We take a look at some of the top 10 healthcare innovations which are transforming the sector

10. Telehealth

The telehealth market is booming. Consumers are leading increasingly busy lifestyles, with up to 60% favouring digitally-led services. Providing clinical care at a distance, increasing accessibility and eradicating potential delays has given patients greater control, boosting patient satisfaction and overall engagement. Such is its exponential growth, The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services in the US has recently released its proposed Physician Fee Schedule and Qualified Payment Programme updates for 2019, where telehealth services has been heavily featured, in order to deliver ‘different access points’ for patients.  

9. Mobile technology

Consumers have become accustomed to accessing their data through the use of various digital tools, where the use of mobile and tablet health apps has tripled from 13% in 2014 to 48% today. Catering to this growing market, British based start-up Babylon Health is making waves on a global scale. Partnering with the National Health Service (NHS) and private health provider, Bupa, it has also cemented its presence across the flourishing Chinese market, with a membership base exceeding 1.4mn citizens across Europe, Asia and Africa. By partnering with global juggernaut Tencent, Babylon’s artificial intelligence system has enabled both parties to interact directly with users, identify specific illnesses, deliver health status assessments, and triage necessary actions. The mobile app is available to over a billion users and linked to more than 38,000 medical facilities in China alone.

8. Artificial intelligence 

Artificial intelligence (AI) applications, such as predictive analytics for patient monitoring has provided significant financial savings. Applications that target hospitals and medical institutions include patient monitoring and transcribing notes for electronic health records (EHRs). The European Union is set to invest $24bn into artificial intelligence (AI) by 2020 in a bid to catch up with Asia and the US, who have invested heavily in AI and cloud services. This year, Google revealed its plans to harness AI and machine learning across a multitude of consumer technologies, particularly in healthcare. “If AI can shape healthcare, it has to work through the regulations of healthcare. In fact, I see that as one of the biggest areas where the benefits will play out for the next 10-20 years,” Google CEO Sundar Pichai has previously stated.

7. Blockchain

Blockchain is estimated to reach over $5.61bn by the end of 2025, even though it remains dependent on the ability to record and store information conveniently, economically and securely amongst different applications and systems. Providing transparency and eliminating third-party intermediaries, processes are streamlined, reducing healthcare costs exponentially. Unlocking the ability for providers to deliver a value-based healthcare system and enhance patient engagement, blockchain could save the industry up to $100-$150bn per year by 2025 in data breach-related costs, IT costs, operations costs, support function costs and personnel costs, according to BIS Research. Partnering with pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), Ethereum blockchain-based supply chain platform, Viant sought to accelerate the pace of blockchain-based supply chain systems. Accenture and supply chain giant DHL have also developed a blockchain-based serialisation prototype which tracks pharmaceuticals from the point of origin to the consumer.

6. Health wearables

With the rise of lifestyle diseases, such as diabetes, more consumers are turning to health wearables that monitor glucose, heart rate, physical activity and sleep to gain a greater understanding of their health conditions. Following on from the release of the first Bluetooth headset back in 2000, the growing interest in wearables has seen monitoring our health and data become standardised. This data can be analysed by sophisticated algorithms to drive long-term diagnosis and support. Partnering with Google, health wearables company Fitbit is exploring the development of consumer and enterprise health solutions. Its acquisition of HIPAA-compliant health platform, Twine Health has seen the business enhance its clinical services by bringing on board a coaching platform, empowering people to seek better health outcomes.

See also

5. Electronic health records tools

From 2018-2022, the electronic health records (EHR) market is expected to grow at a compound average rate of 6% per year Providers and organisations continue to house fragmented technologies which create barriers towards collaboration and data sharing opportunities. This is further exacerbated if a patient straddles both public and private healthcare. Technology giant Apple has integrated patients’ medical records into its Health App as part of its iOS 11.3 beta. The data is encrypted and protected with the user’s iPhone passcode. Partnering with hospital providers and clinics, patients are now able to view their medical records from multiple providers within one platform. Johns Hopkins Medicine, Cedars-Sinai, Penn Medicine, UC San Diego Health and even the Cleveland Clinic have implemented this technology.

4. Healthcare transportation 

Non-emergency health transportation remains a key issue worldwide, preventing patients from getting to or from a doctor’s appointment. 25% of lower-income patients have missed or rescheduled appointments due to lack of transportation, costing US health systems up to $150bn each year. Transportation companies such as Lyft and Uber have therefore entered the market by partnering with state governments to reduce these costs and deliver personalised patient care.

3. 3D Printing 

Healthcare providers are set to represent the second largest industry sector in 3D manufacturing. The Food & Drug Administration’s decision to release its first comprehensive framework advising manufacturers of 3D medical products highlights its growing impact where more than 100,000 knee replacement surgeries are completed each year using 3D-printed, patient-matched surgical guides, for example. Through this process, surfaces and structures can be optimised for strength, weight and material use. Consultation between surgeons and patients has also been bolstered, where patients can better understand the complexity of his or her specific needs.

2. Genomics

As consumers get more involved in the management of their health, consumer genetics and research companies have grown in popularity and scale. People want to further understand their genetic makeup, leading personal genomics and biotech company 23andMe to become one of the largest consumer-based organisations worldwide. Interestingly, this year, the company has entered a four-year collaboration with GSK to develop new treatments, but using human genetics as the basis for discovery.

Not only looking to develop treatments by analysing human genetics, pharmaceutical companies are looking to even remove hereditary genes which pass diseases down generations. In 2017, human embryos were successfully ‘edited’ through gene editing tool, CRISPR (Clustered, Regularly Interspaced, Short Palindromic Repeats), eradicating hypertrophic cardiomyopathy within 42 embryos.

1. Vertical integrations

As healthcare providers aim to provide greater transparency, promote collaboration and lower escalating patient costs, 2018 has been the year for a significant number of vertical integrations. CVS Health’s $68mn takeover of health insurer Aetna is a case in point. By influencing more of the supply chain, it will gain significant negotiating power to reduce costs for payers and patients, develop personalised solutions and improve overall outcomes. It will also promote the eradication of delays in process by removing any third parties within traditional business models. Other notable integrations are Optum’s acquisition of the DaVita Medical GroupHumana and Kindred Healthcare and Cigna and Express Scripts.

Reports have indicated that not only has the number of healthcare deals more than doubled in the last five years, the size of deals has also grown as a result of repeat investor interest, highlighting that this trend is here to stay.

Share article