December 14-15, 2017

Medtech Impact Expo & Conference

Venetian / Palazzo Resort

Las Vegas, NV

(561) 893-8633

Category: Medical Technology

Smartphones: Accurately Testing Sperm Count

Smartphones now have the capability to accurately test for sperm count, led by a team of researchers at Harvard who work on developing new tools for patient care. According to the World Health Organization, low sperm count is one of the primary markers for male infertility, which is a globally neglected health issue.

The scientists have developed a rapid infertility diagnostic tool that attaches to a smartphone; the attachment itself is compatible with an app created to count the numbers of sperm and measure motility: markers for infertility. While the team at Harvard is not the first to develop an at-home fertility test designed for men, they are the first to successfully determine sperm concentration in addition to motility.

The process is simple: a small semen sample is loaded onto a disposable microchip, which is then placed into the cellphone attachment through a slot. The attachment turns the phone’s camera into a microscope. After the sample is loaded and the app is run—which allows users to see a video of the sample—the record button is pressed, and the app subsequently analyzes the video to identify sperm cells, and track their movements.

Scientists did a side-by-side comparison of the smartphone sperm tracker with current lab equipment, analyzing over 350 semen samples of both infertile and fertile men. The smartphone system’s identification accuracy was 98 percent. The group also assessed whether an untrained user, with no scientific background, could successfully and easily operate the app. The results, published in the journal Science Translational Medicine on Wednesday, indicated that both untrained and trained users could operate the at-home test without difficulty.

While the cell phone attachment is engineered to work with Android devices, the team is currently creating a version compatible with iPhones. The device costs only $5 to make in the lab, and the low cost could ultimately help provide necessary infertility care—particularly in developing nations, which often lack the resources for currently available diagnostics.

While the device has been designed to test for male infertility, its creators believe it could also help men who have recently undergone a vasectomy. After the procedure, physicians urge men to have their sperm count tested, in order to tell whether the procedure was successful. Yet many men do not return to a clinic and have their samples tested.

Next steps are receiving FDA approval, starting a company, and beginning mass production of the devices, which could likely be available to customers for below 50.00 dollars. In the future, it is possible that fertility tests for men will be as easy and commonplace as at-home pregnancy tests for women.

Help & Hope for the Hearing-Impaired

Recently emerging advancements in the field of medical technology have offered new hope to those who have historically suffered from profound hearing loss.

Specific hearing implants—including cochlear and/or auditory brainstem implants—have ‘revolutionized’ the overall management of hearing loss and impairment. While these surgically implanted devices do not actually amplify sounds like conventionally created hearing aids, they instead provide users with a sense of sound through direct stimulation of the hearing nerves, or the part of the brain involved with hearing.

The implementation of cochlear implants allows patients to both hear and localize sounds as well as someone with healthy hearing; moreover, recent improvements in the technology include more aesthetic & visually discreet models, in addition to wireless accessories that allow individuals to stream sound inputs from phone clips or television: directly to the sound processors.

These hearing devices can assist hearing-impaired people successfully integrate into society. Moreover, there is a wealth of evidence that suggests the majority of deaf children who receive bilateral cochlear implants before age one can ultimately develop as normally as normal-hearing children.

Studies indicate that early intervention and treatment improves overall outcomes, as hearing objectively plays a critical role in the development of speech, coupled with learning and communication skills. Further research demonstrates that children born with hearing loss who receive late intervention receive lower academic test scores than their peers with normal hearing.

Researchers and physicians both stress the importance of early detection and treatment of hearing loss, which should also be a crucial priority in older adults and eldercare. If a patient has already been diagnosed with dementia and/or depression, hearingimpairment can serve to exacerbate and accelerate those conditions. Furthermore, hearing-impaired individuals are less aware of their surroundings, which leads to safety implications.

Technological Barriers

While the field of technology is incontrovertibly experiencing rapid progression, recent publications regarding electronic reporting demonstrate that there is still room for significant development and growth.

Data has confirmed that capturing real-time reports of cancer patients’ symptoms between physician visit has concrete, tangible health benefits—yet cancer researchers have expressed that technological and financial barriers hinder doctors from a widespread adoption of the practice.

Previous research shows that a consistent, systematic collection of patients’ symptoms through the use of computerized surveys has a strong correlation to greater quality of life improvements and overall survival. Yet despite the multitude of benefits, collecting patient-reported symptoms is not the standard practice. While health care providers could easily utilize questionnaires via the Internet, or ‘smart’ devices,’ to integrate patient-reported information, and subsequently, transmit data into electronic health records, they face several obstacles.

Because companies that initially develop the electronic recording systems and records have not been ‘patient-centered’ in their approaches, the infrastructure is fairly rudimentary, and many lack patient portal applications. Moreover, medical providers only see modest financial incentives in implementing systems for patient-reported outcomes.

An additional concern with implementation involves a lack of efficient incorporate monitoring into the workflow, coupled with a weak standardization of reporting questionnaires—both of which ultimately exacerbate suffering, and unnecessary utilization of emergency services. Studies suggest that this mechanism for monitoring could eventually create a true standard of ‘patient-centered care.’

Linking Life Expectancy & Medical Innovation

As recent collection of data and statistics demonstrates that overall American life expectancy has dropped for the first time in a decade, there is an urgent and pressing need for the advent and proliferation of medical technology—coupled with scientific progress and laws to encourage innovation.

While the research points to specific factors that have lowered rates of mortality, including increased obesity, long-term unemployment, and a resurgence of chronic diseases, the studies incontrovertibly suggest the critical need to provide enhanced ‘life-saving and life-prolonging’ therapies and treatments.

There is no specific way to address the divergence of issues regarding lowered life expectancy, but there are particular measures that must be undertaken. These include enacting evidence-based policies that spur innovation, and further eliminating any roadblocks to America’s inventors.

By spearheading research that targets the most grave and life-threatening challenges in our medical and healthcare system, new resources will grow and develop, ultimately allowing for patients to access breakthrough therapies. The need for medical-technology innovation is steadily increasing, while removing obstacles to improving patient outcomes and creating high-tech manufacturing jobs remains a challenge.

We must collectively and cooperatively tackle the persistent healthcare problems that our country faces, while boosting innovation in the technological sector in order to further address medical challenges.

Market For Wearable Devices

A vast number of companies and businesses now offer a type of wearable advanced feature, including Philips, Bioness, Fitbit, and Apple. A report titled “The Market for Wearable Devices” profiled these industries, in addition to market drivers and benefits associated with the adoption of wearable devices in the healthcare industry. The publication differentiated products into four main market segments:

1. Lifestyle & Fitness: Most data considers this segment to be the most advanced category in the market of wearable medical devices; these products include fitness/activity/sports trackers. The idea of personal health and wellness monitoring is a primary contributor to this arena, as the line between medical and lifestyle devices is further blurred.

2. Diagnostics & Monitoring: These non-invasive devices have the potential to provide valuable and necessary health information, including glucose & cardiovascular monitoring, pregnancy/obstetrics, neurological monitoring, and devices that assist in sleep observation and support.

3. Therapeutic: These systems that monitor disease states while simultaneously tracking health activity can store data and deliver feedback therapy, representing the upcoming frontier in personalized healthcare and medicine. These products include insulin management, respiratory therapy, and pain control devices.

4. Injury Prevention & Rehabilitation: This segment of products includes body motion, wearable sensing garments, fall detection, and other devices that help prevent injury, and/or subsequently support rehabilitation.

Technological Advances Treat Eye Disease

Diabetic eye disease, formally known as Diabetic Retinopathy, is a complication resulting from diabetes that affects the eyes. Caused by damage to the blood vessels of the retina—the light-sensitive tissue found at the back of the eye—diabetic retinopathy can ultimately lead to irreversible blindness. Statistics reveal that the disease will affect up to 80% of those who have had diabetes for over two decades.

While proper treatment protocols and consistent monitoring of the eyes can substantially reduce the disease’s occurrence, most medical specialists capable of early detection are not obtainable in parts of the world in which the disease is prevalent. The examination is costly, requiring highly trained specialists to interpret images and rate them for disease presence and severity, and inaccessible for most parts of the underdeveloped world.

Researchers at Google, however, have recently developed a deep learning algorithm that is capable of interpreting the signs and symptoms of diabetic eye disease in retinal photographs: potentially assisting physicians in screening more patients in settings with limited resources. These new advances have the potential to solve a host of critically important medical and healthcare problems; soon, automated screening methods for diabetic eye disease may be available to assist doctors in evaluating greater numbers of patients, and rapidly refer those with signs of disease to specialists.

Wireless & Wearable: Why Wait?

The market of wearable medical technology is one of the most rapidly growing and advancing sectors in the global marketplace, now comprised of devices that have the potential to alter and enhance lifestyle, provide diagnostic and therapeutic support, and aid in injury prevention.

These devices, which once solely focused on one single measurement (the number of steps in a day), now have the capabilities to focus on a variety of bodily measurements: heart rate, blood pressure, breathing, etc. New miniaturized sensors, wireless communication protocols, portability and data transfer abilities, are only a small sampling of the market’s proliferation.

Now valued at approximately $13.2 billion for the year of 2016, the industry of wearable technology is continuing to progress, as healthcare professionals and practitioners are concentrating on the overwhelming need to monitor diseases and aging populations. Due to the advent of new wireless and Bluetooth technologies, a quickly improving infrastructure, and a mounting patient familiarity with wireless devices, the technological advancements are being embraced by the healthcare industry. In order to engineer systems that facilitate the incorporation of wearable medical devices into patients’ and physicians’ daily routines, the marriage of medicine & IT-advancements will continue to develop and strengthen.

Tsunami In Technology

The wave of healthcare technology is surging into view, akin to a tsunami: as it rapidly rushes towards the landscape of medicine, the cost of tools are dropping at the same rate that options are growing.

At the Cleveland Clinic’s annual Medical Innovations Summit last week, Daniel Kraft—an oncologist, and chair of medicine and neuroscience at Singularity University—asked his audience a critical question: are the right platforms and infrastructure in place to catch the proverbial ‘wave’?

Kraft described the bridge between medicine and technology: how popular, widely-used and accessible consumer devices can potentially deliver molecular-level disease diagnosis and treatment. A smartwatch can collect all the data that intensive care manages; an ultrasound can be done for a fraction of the price with a device that plugs into a smartphone. Hundreds of apps and startups have produced, and are continuing to deliver, massive amounts of data. With the advent and proliferation of this digital technology, it is possible to make more effective and personalized healthcare the new golden standard.

Yet if digital tools can ultimately solve several of healthcare’s overarching problems, how do we prepare the foundation to most effectively utilize them, and manage the immense quantity of data?

Register for MedTech Impact, and be on the frontline of medicine. MedTech Impact is a conference that gives healthcare professionals the ability to learn best practices and techniques while viewing and learning about the latest emerging technologies in the medical field. Through educational sessions, case studies, keynote addresses, and an exhibit hall that showcases technologies like wearables, biosensors, and 3D printing, attendees can immediately harness the technologies in their practices, and effectively improve patient service.