09 February 2016
5 min read

One of the most exciting areas of growth that we expect to see in 2016 is in the area of medical technologies. Here are 10 awe-inspiring innovations sure to leave your jaw gaping.

As an ethical superfund, we only invest in clean, green, and ethical practices that seek to support people, society, and our planet. We steer clear of coal, gas, and oil, and choose to instead focus on rewarding investments such as medical solutions, innovative technology, and healthcare. We help doctors and the pharmaceutical industry band together. At the same time, we always aim to generate competitive returns, and our ethical funds have outperformed non-ethical funds for more than a decade.

And if you’re wondering where those investments in the medical industry are going, here are just ten ground-breaking medical innovations that will emerge in 2016. These technologies wouldn’t be possible without investment, so pat yourself on the back for the contributions you may have made…

1. Virtual reality diagnosis

Virtual reality (VR) took a big leap in 2015: Google made cardboard cool again, and The New York Times went virtual, which is pretty cool for a newspaper. And this was just the tip of the iceberg. 2016 should be even bigger for VR with more medically focussed projects. Sophisticated devices like the Oculus Rift are already hitting the market and it’s expected that medical students will start examining patients through VR by the end of the year. Life’s looking virtual for us humble patients too. Homebound people might soon be able to take virtual bike rides thanks to research being done at Stanford and even Apple is on the hunt for medical tech talent with the internet spreading rumours about a virtual reality team. Moral of the story: Be prepared, virtual reality is growing up and getting a medical degree. Next showing at your local GP’s office.

Dr. Shafi Ahmed, Medical Realities
Dr. Shafi Ahmed, Medical Realities

2. ImpediMed’s help for cancer patients

ImpediMed Limited is an international provider of medical technology that Australian Ethical has invested in. The company’s newest technology can manage, measure, and monitor fluid status in cancer patients. This year will see the release of the company's L-Dex system that can aid in the clinical assessment of lymphedema, a limb swelling that occurs in survivors of cancer treatments. L-Dex will be able to identify lymphedema in patients up to 10 months before limb swelling even happens. The new system helps with the early detection of the disease, which can help prevent its progression – and in some cases, even reverse the side effects from cancer treatment entirely.

3. Robo-doc

You don't want to be the 57th patient a doctor has seen that day, when his or her eyes are getting tries and they might miss something in your scans... Medical Sieve is an ambitious project that serves as a clinical decision maker in the fields of radiology and cardiology. With advanced multimodal analytics, clinical knowledge, and reasoning capabilities, the medical sieve will exhibit a deep understanding of diseases and their interpretation. The system gathers data about a patient, and then uses its clinical knowledge to process a summary outlining the patient's abnormalities.

4. Real-time food scanners

Instead of attempting to guess the nutritional value of your food, the SCiO scanner from Consumer Physics (to be released in May) uses near-infrared spectroscopy to determine the chemical makeup of food and drink. After a scan of about 10 seconds, a nutritional breakdown will appear on accompanying app. DietSensor, and from there, you can determine how what you’re about to eat may fit into a predetermined diet or wellness plan. Developers are now hard at work on additional applications for the surface scan, analysing the moisture levels in plants and even your blood alcohol content.

5. An augmented reality lens

A digital contact lens patented by Google has partnered with pharmaceutical company Novartis to produce a lens that can monitor blood sugar for people with diabetes. The chip and sensor are embedded between two layers of contact lens material and a tiny pinhole allows fluid from the eye to reach the glucose sensor, measuring levels every second. The contact lens will allow people with diabetes to check glucose more often and more easily than the current method of pricking their finger.

6. Organ bioprinting

For the first time, fully-human kidney proximal tubular tissues have been generated that are three-dimensional, made up of multiple tissue-relevant cell types arranged to copy the renal tube functions. The tissues are fabricated using Organovo’s proprietary NovoGen bioprinting platform, and the company expect to release an exVive3D Human Kidney Tissue in the latter half of 2016.

3D Printing An Organ – Live Onstage at TED. See here: www.ted.com/talks/anthony_atala_printing_a_human_kidney

7. Immediate test results

Point-of-Care Testing (PoCT) is pathology testing performed at the time of consultation that allows the results to be used to make immediate, informed decisions about patient care. 2016 has been called the year of PoCT, with companies like Alere and Roche Diagnostics making waves. By the end of the year, patients may be able to visit their doctor, get tested, and walk out ten minutes later knowing their complete results.

8. Handheld ultrasound

Five years ago, ultrasound shrunk to the size of a laptop, and today, it’s gone down to pocket-size. Handheld ultrasounds are getting smaller and smaller, and it’s expected that before long, pocket-sized visualisation tools may replace the humble stethoscope.

9. Bedside blood-cell counter

One of the most commonly ordered blood tests is the complete blood cell count, which requires a large sample of blood, expensive equipment in a bulky lab, and a few days to return results. But now thanks to a new microfluidic biochip, this complete blood-cell count test can be brought to a patient’s home. The portable blood-cell counter gives results in minutes from a single drop of blood (similar to the simple and common blood-sugar glucose test), and can be operated easily by the patient themselves.

A traditional glucose meter which analyzes blood coming from a finger prick. Intel Free Press via Flickr.

10. Clinical-grade wearables

It’s pretty clear that there’s a worldwide love for wearable tech devices, and perhaps this will become most evident in the medical industry. More sophisticated sensors and advanced analytics mean wearables are finding meaningful clinical applications – evident in applications such as Medtronic’s Seeq Mobile Cardiac Telemetry System, which monitors a patient’s heart rate and sends continuous real-time data directly to health care professionals. Getting immediate assistance in an emergency dramatically increases a patient’s likelihood of survival.

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