New innovations are constantly changing the face of the medical industry, from the way healthcare is delivered to individual solutions for sufferers and staff alike.
It seems with each year that goes by the combination of science and technology is increasingly being used to push new boundaries – robots that can perform spinal surgery, light-activated drugs and gamma radiation for the treatment of brain tumours.
The Wellcome Collection in London is a gallery and exhibit space that aims to bring to life areas of development in medicine throughout the ages. Its recent exhibit "Can Design Save your Life?" concentrated on future medical devices, looking at innovations that can be used by a range of people, from practitioners to patients.
From the infrared alcohol test to a robotic suit that uses healthy limbs to help exercise damaged ones, this gallery supplies the inventions it thinks might be of most interest to the general public.
GETTING UNDER YOUR SKIN
A number of inventions covered in the Wellcome Collection's "Can Design Save your Life?" collection dealt with issues that do not always make the headlines in health journals.
One such device is Medaro Medical's self-funded SFM libido patch. Worn on a man's wrist, all it takes is one whiff (at what the wearer thinks is an appropriate time) to trigger libido.
The idea is the SFM libido patch will trigger sensors in the brain which increase sexual drive. This works off a similar premise used for inventor Liz Paul's last invention – an appetite suppressant – and Medaro Medical's other such products, which includes a female libido patch which uses "high-tech" essential oils to enhance mood.
Medaro is also working with medical device maker Maddison on an easy-to-use test for meningitis along with other innovative products.
Another product that relies on your largest gland, the skin, is TruTouch Technologies' infrared alcohol analyser. Designed to be used as a breath test, this device only needs to be shone on to the skin to tell – by how light is reflected – if the person in question has been drinking.
TruTouch says it is working to overcome numerous problems in the field with today's breathalyser units, which require cooperation to be operated. It could also be used by medical professionals to ascertain the state of incoming patients if required.
The test – which is yet to be named – can be done in just 60 seconds, where in some cases the breathalyser process can take up to 20 minutes as well as days for standard blood tests to be returned.
WHERE CARE REALLY COUNTS
Two inventions highlighted at the "Can Design Save your Life?" exhibit look at using elements of design and technology to help in hospital environments. Realive, a new device by Panasonic, offers a new ways for stroke victims to regain movement; while the CompactOR provides what you might call a "hospital in a box" for paramedics on the road.
Panasonic has based its invention on a robotic suit. Looking somewhat like a motorbike jacket, the suit uses movement from a healthy limb to revive damaged ones by sending signals from good muscles to rubber ones wrapped in the suit. These can then mimic what the action of the previous arm.
Studies have shown that such movement can help revive nerve cells and speed recovery, offering new hope for sufferers around the world.
Other new designs are working to alleviate the problems being faced by hospitals themselves.
Around the world, medical emergency wards are decreasing in size as more paramedics and medical professionals are sent out on the road to perform their jobs. CompactOR took this into account when designing its medical centre that fits in the back of a Land Rover and, amazingly, can handle any surgery bar open heart.
Another problem faced with hospitals has been that of the treatment of patients requiring dialysis, Sarah Calder's Active Heamodialysis Needle allows patients receiving dialysis to move freely, improving the efficacy of the treatment.
Current metallic needles are too rigid to allow for any movement. However, Calder has come up with a new way of connecting the dialyser to the patient using a soft biomaterial which flexes inside the vein, posing no risk of piercing its wall. Not only does this mean that patients receiving treatment can move about, or be moved about, but it makes life easier for hospital staff by lessening the fear of pain.
Some of these devices may seem novel, but this does not stop them from opening new grounds in medical device research. It could lead to further improvements in how we go about creating medical devices that aid both the medical industry and patients that rely so heavily on it.