The Hollywood version of operating rooms is full of beeping, blinking monitors and medical devices that look like something out of a (more recent) Star Trek movie. Futuristic, sleek, mind-bendingly fast, and informative—almost too much so. And while some virtual arrays and hologram “touch” screens seem beyond our current paradigm grasp, they either already exist in some form or are closer to large-scale reality than you think.
Enter one of the oldest clichés in the book: necessity is the mother of invention. Or maybe just wishing it so is. Either way, for ambitious advances to see daylight takes a certain kind of imagination. How do you think beyond what’s already in front of you? Where to begin figuring out the engineering on—not just a new device—but an entirely new experience or ability to achieve an outcome? Try drawing something you have never seen before. By necessity and definition, it will possess characteristics of something(s) you have seen before. But making that leap to the brand new, never seen or experienced is the lifeblood of medical device technology advancements.
Having said all that, keep in mind that the answer could be right in front of you, but the pieces may need to fit together in a different way. Recently, using a $10 microchip, doctors from Duke and Stanford universities developed a device that can allow a $50K, 2-D ultrasound machine many of the capabilities of a 3-D imagining machine in the $250K range. The inspiration for the discovery did, indeed, come from an existing technology, re-applied. While playing Nintendo with his son, Dr. Joshua Broder, one of the creators of the technology, “pondered” duct-taping a controller to an ultrasound wand to get better images. This, he hoped, would add orientation and the holistic context of 3-D technology to 2-D slices of images he often works with.
This solved, not only the original imaging issue, but a host of others:
- Very low-cost solution rendering high-quality, technologically advances results
- Flexibility with high-risk, emergent situations and patients
- Mobility (CT scanners and MRIs are big!)
- Ease of scanning babies, patients with mobility impairments, and bedside use
- Use in rural and developing areas where CT scans or MRIs are not available
- Increased use of safe, ultrasound imaging
According to a Science Daily article, Dr. Brody sums up the advances and advantages of this remarkable development: “In emergency medicine, we use ultrasound to look at every part of the body—to look at blood vessels that we put catheters into, to checking on a trauma patient to see where they’re bleeding. In this case, we can augment 2-D machines and improve every one of those applications. Instead of looking through a keyhole to understand what’s in the room, we can open a door and see everything in front of us.”
Discovery is about opening up to new—think limitless—possibilities. Think: “Where has nature already done this?” Sometimes it starts as a simple pondering. Other times it may be the calling of an urgent need. It could begin as an engineering re-design initiative to upgrade technology and end up improving efficiency and outcomes beyond the original scope of the project.
Enginasion experienced a similar situation using creative solutions on medical device technology associated with a periodontal laser. 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 technology 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.