Medical innovations for 2018

Cleveland Clinic Innovations, the development and commercialization arm of the Cleveland Clinic, held its 15th annual Medical Innovations Summit in October 2017. A panel of doctors and researchers presented advancements with the power to transform health care in 2018.[1] The predicted top-10 medical innovations were:

1.    Artificial pancreas to help diabetics. A closed-loop insulin delivery system enables direct communication between a continuous glucose monitoring device and an insulin pump to stabilize blood glucose levels. The new technology replaces the current open-loop concept that requires the patient to determine how much insulin to inject.

2.    A pacemaker to treat obstructive sleep apnea. Primarily meant for sleep apnea patients who cannot or do not wish to wear the continuous airway pressure device, this remote or wearable patch, acting like a pacemaker, helps to synchronize the intake of air with action on the tongue, using sensors and stimulation leads powered by a battery.

3.    Gene therapy for inherited retinal diseases, including retinitis pigmentosa and Leber congenital amaurosis. The innovative gene therapy delivers a new “normal” working copy of the gene inside a modified virus into the retinal cells.   

4.    Reduction of LDL cholesterol. Trials in progress have combined statins with PCSK9 inhibitors (a new class of cholesterol-lowering drugs) to reach ultra low LDL levels. The new strategy holds the promise of significant reduction in the risk of cardiovascular death, myocardial infarction, or stroke. 

5.    Removing geographical barriers to care. This is anticipated due to an increase in connectivity through mobile technology. Includes distance health technologies (telehealth), such as attachable devices that record and report medical information to doctors to monitor the condition of patients with a variety of conditions. 

6.    New generation vaccine platforms. Rapid development of new vaccines and novel mechanisms to deliver new and existing vaccines to vast populations is expected. Innovators are developing oral, edible, and mucosally delivered, intranasal vaccines and vaccine chips. The new ways of developing, shipping, storing, and vaccinating will stave off diseases and epidemics.

7.    Targeted breast cancer therapies. Cumulative results from current studies point to the eventual end of chemotherapy for a significant population of breast cancer patients.

8.    Enhanced recovery after surgery. Postsurgery strategies that include protocols that permit patients to eat before surgery, and limit use of opioids by using alternate medications and encourage regular walking and a postoperative nutrition plan, have the promise of accelerating recovery.

9.    Centralizing monitoring of hospitalized patients. Off-site personnel using advanced equipment, including sensors and high-definition cameras to monitor vital signs and trigger on-site intervention when appropriate, while filtering out many unimportant alarms.

10.    Scalp cooling for reducing chemotherapy hair loss. Reducing the temperature of the scalp immediately before, during, and after chemotherapy has been shown to be highly effective for preserving hair in patients receiving chemotherapy in some forms of early stage cancers.

The wide scope of these predicted innovations surprises me, but I had hoped for one more innovation: the development of alternate methods for delivering medications to physically or mentally challenged patients, children, and the elderly who cannot or do not want to swallow their pill. This would ensure first, that the patient does receive the needed medicine and second, to liberate care givers’ from the untold hours of attempts trying to administer medication to their unwilling or unable patients.
—George Szasz, CM, MD

1.    Cleveland Clinic. Cleveland Clinic unveils top 10 medical innovations for 2018. Last modified 25 October 2017.

This posting has not been peer reviewed by the BCMJ Editorial Board.

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