This piece was originally published in the September 2018 issue of electroindustry.
Patrick A. Hope, Executive Director, MITA
Mr. Hope has held government relations positions within medical specialty societies.
With new developments continuing to push the boundaries for medical imaging and related devices, technological innovation has completely changed the healthcare landscape. Below are a few of the many developments that are helping doctors and patients.
Patient privacy is a huge focus for equipment manufacturers and hospitals, so technologies that make it easier to protect data and securely exchange information are making waves.
Cybersecurity startup MedCrypt, for example, developed software that will protect the security of all medical devices. Researchers from Vanderbilt University are investigating the possibilities of using blockchain technology to safeguard patient data and hospital communications.
Protecting patient data isn’t the only benefit provided by new technologies, as artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning are making it possible for computer-aided diagnosis (CADx). A handful of CADx programs have been FDA approved, with applications ranging from coronary computed tomography (CT) analysis to stroke detection.
As new data becomes available, and AI becomes more powerful, a host of technologies will emerge to assist doctors in recognizing and treating any number of patient conditions.
Advancement in imaging technology is pushing the bounds of current modalities. Development of a new ultrasound device that substitutes optical probes for the traditional electronic ones means that the device can be used in tandem with magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), a feature that eludes current models because of the effect of the magnetic field on electronic systems.
Another multimodal system that has recently been unveiled is a coronary CT angiography / cardiac single-photon emission CT (SPECT) perfusion combinational approach that provides doctors with vital information on blood flow to and from the heart tissue.
Ultrasound, typically thought of as an imaging method, can also be used in the treatment of a variety of conditions. By utilizing high-intensity focused ultrasound, doctors can destroy problematic tissues in an accurate and entirely non-invasive manner. As doctors and researchers continue to investigate the power of this technique, we will likely see additional treatment applications emerge.
Similar to the use of ultrasound technology for both imaging and treatment, new developments in the field of nuclear medicine combine the therapeutic and diagnostic capabilities of the radiopharmaceuticals in a model known as theranostics.
A powerful example has been the diagnosis and treatment of neuroendocrine cancer. Positron emission tomography (PET) can also act as an early detection method for Alzheimer’s disease (AD) because the buildup of specific peptides and proteins in the brain that is linked to AD can be directly imaged using different tracer drugs. The importance of early AD diagnosis cannot be understated. As medical technology advances, we hope to find a cure for this disease.