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The best healthcare innovations for the future: some noteworthy nominees

on July 11, 2011 Source:

Word has it that Cleveland Clinic is gathering nominees from its staff for the best healthcare innovations of 2012, the Top 10 list that’s the cornerstone of the health system’s annual innovations summit.

This year’s summit, which starts Oct. 3, will focus on cardiovascular technologies. But the list never focuses on one single technology. And since they’re asking, MedCity News will get in on the act. Here are some suggestions on notable healthcare innovations for the future.

Who knows? Maybe one or two of these innovations in healthcare might even end up on the Clinic’s list?

New malaria drugs. Though health providers and government officials have been looking to bring malaria under control for decades, the disease remains endemic in many parts of the world – in Africa, particularly. It can bring on kidney failure, seizures, permanent neurological damage, coma and death. But there are several promising new malaria drugs under development that could help fight the disease, including one that could treat the disease with a single oral dose.

New laparoscopic system. A flexible laparoscopic instrument from North Carolina-based TransEnterix opens like an umbrella inside a patient’s body after being inserted via a single incision in the navel. The system provides surgeons with two flexible channels for right- and left-hand instruments with a 360-degree range of motion, and two rigid channels for small cameras and other instruments.

Robotic heart catheter. A robotic catheter system from California-based Hansen Medical allows surgeons to remotely guide a heart catheter with hand movements at a work station while seeing a 3-D view of the operation. The device could allow for more precise catheter movements inside the heart.

Gastric plication. A surgery called gastric plication that involves folding a patient’s stomach in on itself and stitching it up looks to hold promise in treating weight loss. The procedure can reduce the stomach’s volume by as much as 80 percent. With a smaller stomach, patients feel full sooner and don’t eat as much.

"I’m thinking this is going to really take off in a big way because it does offer some significant advantage over existing procedures," said Philip Schauer, director of the Cleveland Clinic’s Bariatric and Metabolic Institute.

Color-changing, heat-sensing bandages. An Australian researcher has created a bandage that changes color (at left) in response to changes in temperature as small as a half-degree Celsius. Increases in heat at a wound site are associated with inflammation and infection, so the color-changing bandage could be a quicker, cheaper means of diagnosing infection.

Stem cell therapy for heart failure: A stem cell product from Florida-based BioHeart called MyoCell could improve cardiac function in chronic heart failure patients by growing new muscle in the heart. The therapy is in phase 3 trials, but BioHeart’s experience illustrates the inherent riskiness — from a business perspective, at least — associated with stem cells. The company began clinical trials in 2001, has spent more than $100 million, and has no products on the market.

Diagnosing cataracts by smartphone: Diagnosing cataracts typically requires a $5,000 piece of equipment and a physician to interpret the test results, and each of those aren’t easy to come by in rural areas and less-developed countries. Now, a team of MIT researchers has developed a simple device that can clip onto an ordinary smartphone and provide a diagnosis of cataracts within a few minutes.

"I like to think of this as a radar for the human eye," said one researcher.

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