The market for medical devices has grown substantially in recent years. Semiconductors are getting faster, smaller, and more reliable. All of this means doctors and patients are turning to both devices and software to improve their experience with healthcare. From artificial intelligence (AI) to virtual reality (VR) and advanced electronic devices to 3D printing, technology has changed the landscape of the medical world.
While these advancements are undeniably beneficial, they aren’t without challenges. Indeed, despite how far medical technology has come today, there is still an unfathomable amount of work to be done to keep improving it.
Companies that make consumer devices have a lot to worry about. The end product must be high-quality and deliver a satisfying experience for the buyer. After all, the consumer’s trust and wallet are at stake.
Healthcare device manufacturers have a much bigger picture to consider. A malfunction in one of their devices could cost the patient their life or result in serious harm. With this in mind, every component from the most powerful processor to the smallest memory chip or indicator light must meet key performance requirements. These are outlined by industry standards and put into place by government bodies to keep patients safe.
Moreover, devices used in medical applications must keep efficiency in mind. Implants, wearables, and monitoring gadgets can’t afford to draw excess power or need to be constantly recharged.
Such limitations and requirements dictate the way medical technology evolves. All parties responsible for making these devices must keep them top of mind. However, that hasn’t stopped the field from roaring into the future.
Today, many hospitals look more akin to science fiction movies than their predecessors of just a few decades ago. From sensors that can monitor just about any measurement in the human body to ingestible cameras that search the digestive tract for ailments, advanced medical devices play a key role in modern healthcare.
Of course, not all devices appear advanced on the surface. Imagine a smart watch for example. Five years ago, the extent of these devices’ role in healthcare was monitoring sleep and heart rate. Flash forward to today and they can now continuously track vitals, perform EKGs, and even measure blood pressure. If the watch detects an abnormality, it can alert your healthcare provider directly or prompt you to seek care.
Meanwhile, improved connectivity technology grants users control and personalization like never before. Hearing aids, blood glucose monitors, and heart monitors are just a few devices that have improved with better connectivity. With a smartphone, users can communicate with their device in real-time, access data, and reap the benefits of more powerful analytics tools.
Though advanced medical devices often steal the spotlight, they aren’t the only form of technology making an impact in medicine. Technology most patients don’t see may be even more impactful.
At leading research hospitals, large data centers run powerful AI algorithms. They are fed data from patient charts, including lab values, assessment findings, and history. AI then scours the information to uncover potential diagnoses or recommend the right treatment. Other times, the models run simulations to discover new drugs or find creative ways to attack cancer cells. Though human doctors still play a vital role, their skill sets are being enhanced by mind-boggling amounts of computer power.
Elsewhere, VR technology is used to train surgeons on complex procedures without the need for a real human. Today’s most advanced modeling programs let the provider see and interact with a surgical site as if it were right in front of them. Meanwhile, advanced robotics and augmented reality (AR) let surgeons perform operations from thousands of miles away.
Thanks to advancements in 3D printing, prosthetics are more tailored to their user than ever before. No longer does losing a limb mean losing the majority of your function. But that’s not the most impressive part. Modern 3D printers can replicate skin tissue, blood vessels, bone, and even full organs. These synthetic parts give doctors new ways to treat injuries and illnesses that have never been possible without human donors.
Ultimately, these examples merely scratch the surface of what’s possible with technology. The world of medicine is ever-changing. Thanks to rapid advancements in semiconductor design and manufacturing, healthcare has a partner capable of keeping up. Over the coming years, chipmakers will play a crucial role in supporting the integration of medicine and technology by supplying the healthcare industry with vital components. Though semiconductors play an important role in nearly every aspect of modern life, none may be more impactful than their presence in medicine.