Clockwise from top left: Osso VR, Phonak’s Audéo Fit, Molli Surgical’s breast cancer localization system, and Esper Bionics’ Esper Hand were among 14 medical device innovations to make it into Time magazine’s Best Inventions of 2022. [Images courtesy of the companies]
For over 20 years, Time magazine has highlighted the 100 most impactful devices and ideas around the world. The list is compiled through nominations from the publication’s editors and global correspondents, with special attention to categories such as medical innovations, green energy and electric vehicles.
Time graded each nominee on a number of key factors that include originality, efficacy, ambition and impact.
This year’s list honored 14 medical devices, mostly from startup companies. Vicarious Surgical and Osso VR are some familiar names in the medtech industry that were recognized as some of Time magazine’s Best Inventions of the year as surgical robotics and virtual reality continue to gain traction in the industry.
Other notable devices on Time magazine’s Best Inventions list include a wearable walking cane for visually-impaired people that takes into account objects at head and chest level, as well as an ultrasound sticker and a pop-up patient isolation room.
Here are the 14 medical devices and technologies, separated into type categories, that were awarded Best Invention of 2022, according to Time magazine.
Patient monitoring devices had to become more innovative during the COVID-19 pandemic. In the first few months of the COVID-19 pandemic, the FDA relaxed regulations on 21 types of remote patient monitoring devices for the duration of the pandemic to protect healthcare workers from exposure to the virus. Time magazine has named some patient monitoring systems as some of the best inventions of 2022. Ranging from wearable continuous stroke monitoring to a pop-up patient isolation room, here are five patient monitoring devices that are keeping physicians and patients safe and comfortable.
What are they and how do they work?
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Clinomic: Mona | Tracking ICU patient care using voice activation
Clinomic‘s Mona is a smart bedside device used in the intensive care unit that provides feedback to assist clinicians in the best treatment options for patients. This remote monitoring system allows clinicians to securely perform telemedicine through an encrypted audio-video connection, giving specialist care at the patient’s bedside. Using natural language, Mona documents patient data, including drugs administered, clinical measurements, observations, procedures and more. It is voice-activated to allow doctors to verbally note what action they are taking. The system features SmartLabs, MedicBI, SmartWorkflows, ItelliQM and SmartSummary, all of which provide meaningful information to doctors on lab values, predictions of out-of-range lab values, efficient ways to track ICU checklists and more. Mona is powered by an NVIDIA high-speed artificial intelligence chipset, artificial intelligence-powered eight microphone array, 60 GHz radar and localization chip, 5G and LTE mobile connectivity and a 180-degree 4K telemedicine camera and runs on hospital infrastructure.
Neuralert | Wearable continuous stroke monitoring
Neuralert is a non-invasive stroke monitoring system that detects and alerts hospital staff to the onset of a stroke. Worn as a wristband, the device is constantly monitoring for warning signs of a stroke by measuring arm asymmetry and models out non-stroke asymmetry that causes false alarms, such as hand dominance and cellphone usage. When Neuralert detects signs of a stroke, the device’s cloud software immediately sends an alert to hospital staff on their mobile devices to enhance care delivery. The parameter-invariant algorithm helps reduce false alarms and detect strokes with up to 97% specificity, according to the company.
Xander Kardian: XK300 | Wireless, remote patient monitoring system
Xander Kardian‘s XK300 is a wireless patient monitoring system that measures motion, resting heart rate, respiratory rate and the presence detection of a patient using radar technology. The device is cleared for use in general hospitals, nursing homes and residential homes for home health monitoring. The XK300 measures nano-vibrations from inside the body and uses impulse UWB radar technology to obtain the frequencies from both macro body motion and micro nano-vibrations as a patient moves, breathes and their heart pumps. The human body can send out 15 million impulse signals per second, and the XK300 translates them into 10 data set conclusions per second and compiles it to provide a body motion index, respiratory rate and resting heart rate information. The device is attached to a wall to monitor many chronic conditions, including COVID-19, asthma, pulmonary hypertension, pulmonary embolism and more.
Biotricity: Bioheart | 24/7 heart monitoring
Biotricity‘s Bioheart is a direct-to-consumer continuous heart rhythm monitoring device. It has built-in electrodes and offers three different heart views with 48 hours of battery life on a fabric chest strap wearable. It uses powerful analytics and continuous rhythm monitoring to deliver feedback to physicians that is needed to better understand the condition of a person’s heart health. The technology syncs to a smartphone to offer real-time data that can be viewed on the Bioheart application, which includes important metrics like resting heart rate, active heart rate, live heart rhythm, heart rate variability and more.
Gama Healthcare‘s Rediroom is an instant patient isolation room that equips hospitals to respond to infection outbreaks. The pop-up isolation room has a mobile cart that expands into a HEPA air-filtered isolation room with hands-free entry. The Rediroom is fully operational in five minutes and is a mobile solution that can be easily wheeled to a patient’s bed. It can create an isolation space anywhere in a multi-bay ward. The HEPA filters remove 99.995% of particles down to 0.3 microns. Rediroom’s hands-free entry and exit reduce the risk of hand contamination with an entry kick panel below the in-built PPE station.
Withings: Body Scan | Home connected health station
Withings’ Body Scan is a connected health station that delivers precise weight, segmental body composition and heart health with vascular age. It uses advanced sensors embedded in the handle of the scale to scan the torso, arms and legs to give a precise body composition and overall fitness measurement. The vascular age feature identifies changes in overall cardiovascular health by measuring the speed at which wave heart-generated waves move along the artery. Body Scan also provides an Electrodermal Activity Score that measures skin response to sweat gland stimulation. Data from the scale is transmitted to the Withings smartphone application where health trends can be monitored.
MIT: Bioadhesive Ultrasound | Ultrasound stickers
Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have developed a stamp-sized device that sticks to the skin to provide continuous ultrasound imaging of internal organs. The sticker can operate for 48 hours to show high-resolution images of major blood vessels and deeper organs such as the heart, lungs and stomach. The bioadhesive ultrasound stickers are connected to instruments that translate the reflected sound waves and turn them into images. A transducer is pressed against the skin and sends sound waves into the body that then echo off internal structures and back to the transducer, which translates the echoed signals into visual images. The adhesive layer is two thin layers of elastomer encapsulating a middle layer of solid hydrogel that easily transmits the sound waves.
Accessibility devices and technology
There are many devices on the market to assist people with health conditions and impairments. Recently, the White House announced that over-the-counter hearing aids would be sold at major U.S. retailers following an FDA final ruling that created a new category of OTC hearing aids. Those devices for the hearing impaired and many other accessibility devices for amputees and visually-impaired are some of Time magazine’s Best Inventions of 2022. Ranging from hearing aids to wearable walking canes, these devices improve accessibility and mobility.
What are they, and how do they work?
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Phonak: Audéo Fit | Hearing aids that monitor heart rate
Phonak‘s Audéo Fit hearing aids are equipped with a sensor that collects heart rate, steps and activity levels to help create a greater sense of well-being when used with the company’s myPhonak smartphone app. The wearable hearing aids also have multiple Bluetooth functions that allow the device to connect to smartphones, televisions and more.
Esper Bionics: Esper Hand | Bionic hand prosthetic
Esper Bionics‘ Esper Hand is an FDA-registered self-learning bionic hand prosthesis that has five separate movable fingers. It is powered by the company’s Esper Control and Esper Platform to accurately detect muscle activity, recognizes situations and predicts the grip that would best fit a certain scenario. Esper Hand is trained using digital signal processing, artificial intelligence, machine learning, data collection, low-power electrons and light movable machinery design so that when a user moves the Esper Hand, the human brain sends impulses to activate exact muscles in the forearm, shoulder and chest. The activation is detected with the help of wearable muscle sensors to work as an exact call-to-action for the robotic hand.
Enhanced Robotics: Sportsmate 5 | Personalized exoskeleton to assist mobility
Enhanced Robotics‘ Sportsmate 5 is an exoskeleton, wearable robot that helps a user lift their thighs up and push the body forward to make walking easier. The consumer-level powered exoskeleton is form-fitting and has two actuators at the hip to provide assistance when needed to save energy and move with ease. Sportsmate 5 improves stability by holding the user’s body and absorbing shaking to decrease strain. It uses a gait controller system, actuator system and energy system, all of which will monitor gait behavior using sensors and are processed using an artificial intelligence algorithm. The controller sends signals to the exoskeleton’s drivers to deliver the correct amount of assistance to the user.
Strap Technologies: Ara | A wearable walking cane for visually-impaired
Strap Technologies’ Ara device is an assistive technology for the blind and visually impaired. The company designed it to replace traditional canes as the wearable technology provides obstacle detection at the user’s head, chest and below waist level and alerts them through haptic feedback. The system’s obstacle detection and straight-line navigation communicate with the user through haptic feedback and a sequence of vibrations specific to certain situations. Ara also adapts to walking speed, and sensors on the device provide information and essential direction instructions that prevent unintentional veering when walking long distances. The Ara is worn on the chest and has six actuators in the device and four actuators on the strap.
Robotic surgery, virtual reality and surgical systems
Robotic-assisted surgery is one of the hottest spaces in the medical device industry, while virtual reality is gaining traction as well. Companies like Vicarious Surgical are combining the two technologies to create one of Time magazine’s Best Inventions of 2022. From surgical robotics to breast cancer localization systems, here are three inventions labeled as the best of the year by Time magazine.
What are they, and how do they work?
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Vicarious Surgical: Robotic system | Transporting doctors inside a patient using surgical robots
Vicarious Surgical designed its surgical robotics platform to use human-like surgical robots combined with 3D visualization to transport surgeons inside the patient to perform minimally invasive procedures. The system creates a 1.5 cm incision — smaller than a dime — to insert a camera and two robotic instruments for abdominal procedures. The surgical robot design has 360 degrees of visualization and access and robotic arms that move downward, sideways, upward and backward to give surgeons greater access to the abdomen. Vicarious Surgical’s robotic system has 28 sensors per arm and replicates a surgeon’s natural upper body movements from shoulders to elbows to wrists.
Molli Surgical: Molli breast cancer localization system | Precise localization for breast cancer surgery
Molli Surgical‘s Molli is a surgical localization device that makes breast cancer surgery simpler for patients, radiologists and surgeons. The localization marker is 3.2 mm in size and has solid magnetic technology to prevent the marker from being deactivated. Molli works with all breast sizes and dense tissue and the delivery system’s tip is extra sharp and free of burrs to provide the best possible placement. An accompanying tablet is portable and mountable on an IV pole or tabletop stand with a fully rechargeable battery that provides three real-time feedback options that measure distance, visual and auditory feedback.
Osso VR: Surgical training platform | Using virtual reality to train surgeons
Osso VR designed its surgical training technology to provide on-demand educational experiences that are repeatable and measurable to help surgeons with surgical techniques and technologies. It has visual fidelity and is available in multiple languages, including English, Japanese, Spanish, German and French. Osso VR gives medical device companies and healthcare professionals a better way to share, practice and learn new skills and procedures in virtual reality. It uses off-the-shelf technology like Oculus VR goggles to work with existing training processes to provide actionable insights and significantly improve effectiveness. The whole system has training analytics to help measure engagement and proficiency to help healthcare professionals perform their best.