Fighting the Opioid Crisis with Medical Device Technology


    An Inside Look: Controlling Abuse by Monitoring Use 

    medical device technology (1).jpgShort-term pain management, sadly, can lead to long-term, devastating consequences if it isn’t monitored. The opioid crisis currently gripping the country bears witness to this. The journey to addiction can be a slow, quiet one—even with the best intentions to avoid it. But what if it could be monitored? Not by someone’s parents, or spouse, or friends, but by the opioid itself—at least, in part.

    Here’s how that works: in a nutshell, it tracks its own ingestion through the use of a digital sensor, which then communicates with a patch worn by the patient. The patch acts as a transmitter and relays readings to a smartphone or tablet, keeping the doctor or caretaker in the loop with dosing and drug usage. Interestingly, the FDA recently approved the use of the world’s first digital pill for use with patients with bipolar who often have to be prompted to take their medicine.

    Researchers at Boston’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital decided to apply this innovation for inverse purposes for patients using opioids after an acute injury event—to track usage and control it before dosage amounts decrease tolerance levels, eventually leading to addiction. This kind of out-of-the-box thinking is exactly why we love innovation and are piqued by the latest technological advances, such as this.

    Solutions like this—which seem so obvious once accomplished—often stem from basics found in nature. In this case, why not follow the life-cycle of each pill, literally? And there you have it!

    We look for cues from nature as inspiration for our approach to issues and answers for clients and apply newly navigated solutions to the engineering designs we provide for them. In keeping with the spirit of this digital pill, when exploring the situation in front of us, we track the existing steps of the current process. This helps us discover the challenges and opportunities associated with it—many times exposing possibilities that were there all along. This was the case with a solution we provided for the technology associated with a periodontal device.

    Medical Device User-Interface-500pxlTo begin the discovery process, we talked with the oral surgeons and found out what their current protocols were. This helped us uncover the deficits they experienced when using the technology we were tasked with upgrading. We also asked them what they hoped to achieve with their next technological platform. One startling observation was that the existing technology did not provide them with a visual of which tooth they were targeting. This was vital, not only for the obvious reasons, but because it could have a direct safety impact on the gums of the patients. Providing surgeons with a visual check on their work seemed like an obvious fix—and among other improvements, we incorporated this into the design for the new medical device technology. Speaking with the end-user, in this case the surgeons, was instrumental in providing us the most natural path to follow for our plan of action. Applying the technology to bring it together was what made it a reality. Our graphic artist optimized the surgeon’s experience. She developed the interface form, logistics, and color palettes, paying attention to the surgeon’s comfort while alternating attention between the patient and the laser controls.

    The company we worked with was Millennium Dental Technologies, the first company to receive FDA approval for a periodontal laser used in place of a scalpel to remove diseased gum tissue. It needed to upgrade its medical devicetechnology to improve performance and ease usability. We looked beyond the status quo and created new, improved hardware and software to enhance this innovative periodontal laser technique. This case study offers more information—download it now to find out.


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    Topics: Medical Device Technology, engineering design

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    Written by David Bonneau

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