Top 10 healthcare technology advances for 2017, according to ECRI

Liquid biopsies, opioid addiction biosensors and AI top ECRI’s annual list of technologies that will transform the industry this year.
By Jessica Davis
12:00 PM

As the industry continues to shift into the value-based care model, healthcare organizations are looking for the right tools to support the move. This tech will support the improvement of patient care and, in some instances, cut operations' costs.

"Navigating new technologies is one of the biggest challenges we hear about from hospital leaders," Robert Maliff, director of Applied Solutions for ECRI Institute, said in a statement. "They simply can't afford to miss the mark on which clinical advancements to bring in to improve patient care."

ECRI's researchers, engineers, specialists, planners and consultants craft its annual “Top Ten Hospital C-Suite Watch List,” by evaluating the safety, efficacy and cost-effectiveness of the year's health technology.

The topics and tech ECRI found will be most influential this year:

1. Liquid biopsies. Liquid biopsies are a genetic testing mechanism that uses a patient's blood, plasma, serum or urine, instead of biopsied tissue. These are easier to obtain and are less risky for the patient. Over 40 companies are currently developing and marketing liquid biopsies in the U.S., and the FDA approved the first liquid biopsy for cancer in June 2016.

2. Genetic testing and biosensors for opioid addiction. Researchers are using genetic tests to identify individuals at the greatest risk for opioid addiction. Current tests aren't ready for wide use, but are in the pipeline. Further, biosensors - worn like wristwatches - can detect relapse episodes for opioid addicts using skin temperature, electrodermal activity and movement.

3. Abdominal surgery initiative. Initiatives that include a web-based, risk-assessment algorithm and patient coaching can combat poor outcomes and reduce costs of patients facing major abdominal surgery.

4. Horizon scanners. Organizations should designate a leader to conduct tests and future planning on technology developments and care processes, as a way to better make decisions on infrastructure, equipment purchases and predict inpatient cases.

5. Ultraviolet-C LEDs for disinfection. This latest LED option comes in strips and emits UV-C light with the greatest germicidal effect. It reduces power usage, stabilizes power output, extends lifespan and can disinfect hard to reach areas. Developers are also working on sanitizing wands and UV disinfecting cabinets for mobile devices.

6. AI. The humanoid robot Pepper can interpret human body language and read emotion to respond accordingly to the user, evolving as it learns the person. It can also be programmed to fit an environment.

7. Robotic surgery. The latest surgical robot model is designed for complex surgeries. It boasts four robotic arms attached overhead that can be repositioned without the need to undock the robot. It communicates with a new type of OR table, which allows for automatic repositioning.

8. Florescent endoscopic imaging. Indocyanine green imaging highlights malignant tissue during an endoscopy that is normally undetectable under regular light; it lets physicians easily distinguish malignant tumors from healthy tissue.

9. Immunotherapy and stem cell therapy for Crohn's disease. Ovasave, a new, personalized T-cell immunotherapy, uses antigen-specific regulatory T-cells generated by in vitro exposure to ovalbumin to treat patients with refractory Crohn's. There are also two mesenchymal stem cell treatments in development: one uses umbilical cord blood and the other uses stems cells cultured outside of the body.

10. Type 1 diabetes vaccines. There are two types of these vaccines: a therapeutic vaccine to slow or stop the autoimmune attack on insulin-producing islet cells for patients with some residual islet function, and a preventative vaccine to create immune tolerance of islet cells in children with an increased genetic risk of developing the disease.

Twitter: @JessieFDavis
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