Sian C. Owen, Medical Writer for Cardio Debate

New innovations in medical technology continue to gather pace as we enter into a Brave New World of health care. So much so that the American College of Cardiology (ACC) recently published a policy paper that addresses the impact of these technologies on healthcare provision and all that entails. [1]

This policy document covers a lot of ground, including wearable technologies, ‘big data’, artificial intelligence and precision-based healthcare approaches. The aim of this paper is to address how best these new technologies can be used, not only for the benefit of the patient but also to help streamline physician’s workload and avoid burnout.

However, despite the claims that these new technologies will improve patient outcomes, there is a lack of evidence that they actually improve outcomes and quality of care. The paper also notes that the early adoption of new technologies into the patient population could have unintended consequences, and as such the medical community should tread carefully. [1] By gaining a better understanding of these new innovations, the benefits – which are yet to be fully realised and measured – can be better exploited.

During the recent AHA 2017 congress, a group of cardiologists gave their take on what medical technology developers should consider for the most effective devices. [2] Here they acknowledged that there is a general desire for patients to self-monitor using wearable devices, however health care practitioners need to ensure there is continuity of care and the patients can commit to using the technology over time, rather than in short bursts. They also raised the ominously named ‘valley of death’ issue, that is the gap in funding between conceptual research and clinical development and product launch. [2]

And there are many fascinating new concepts that are gaining attention of the medical community. For example, Engadget UK reports that scientists from the Adolphe Merkele Institute, University of Fribourg and University of Michigan are taking inspiration from electric eels to develop self-powering implantable technologies, such as pacemakers. [3]

healthAnother fascinating, and ambitious project is the Human Cell Atlas [4] which aims to create a 3D map of all the cell types in the human body. This open-source project involved 19 international scientific institutions and over 500 scientists. Wired Magazine reports that researchers are using single cell genomics to map cell types so we can visualise how they function in healthy states, when they malfunction and also what happens during drug-interactions. [5] The implications for this is profound, not just for cardiology but for medicine as a whole.

Clearly, the healthcare and medical community is at the start of a long and winding road. Hopefully, with the right approach we can navigate this journey so that eventually patients and physicians alike can reap the benefits of these new and exciting technologies.