Breaking Barriers: How to Make Healthcare More Equitable

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October 12, 2023

In the pursuit of a more equitable healthcare system, several technological innovations are proving to be powerful catalysts for change. The goal is a healthcare system that transcends one-size-fits-all approaches and ensures individuals of all body types and backgrounds can receive the care they need. And while more work is needed to make this a reality, recent advancements in how healthcare is delivered and even what healthcare looks like are paving the way for better health for all. One area of progress is medical devices. From machines redesigned to accommodate diverse physiques to technologies enabling smaller and more versatile treatments, ensuring everyone has access to the medical devices their bodies depend on to live fulfilling lives is absolutely achievable. Continued reading for 3 examples of medical device innovations making healthcare more equitable.

1. Medical Machines for All Body Types

One example of how medical device design is changing to ensure machines can be used with all body types is imaging machines, such as MRI and CT scanners. These machines are being reimagined to accommodate individuals with varying body shapes and sizes. For example, open-bore MRI machines provide a more spacious and less confining experience, particularly beneficial for individuals with claustrophobia or those with larger body sizes.

2. Implantable Devices that Work for All Patients

The quest for equitable healthcare extends to the realm of implantable devices, where wireless charging technology is revolutionizing the landscape. Traditional battery packs for implants posed challenges, especially in terms of size and safety. Traditional primary cell batteries are large and need to be replaced every 5 years or so, so implantable medical devices couldn’t be small enough to fit in certain places of the body, and they also didn’t last as long. Because of this, people with smaller body types were ineligible to receive some devices and some treatments simply weren’t possible. Similarly, people with larger bodies weren’t able to benefit from implantable devices because to safely send power deeper in the body requires highly efficient wireless charging that didn’t exist previously. Traditional wireless charging would spread electricity out too much when sending it farther away, which would lead to body tissue heating up and being damaged. Beyond power limitations excluding people with small and large bodies from being able to use implantable devices, the surgeries required to replace the device batteries puts undue stress on patients, subjecting them to infections and deaths, and exacerbating inequities. Due to economic and geographic barriers, frequent surgery isn’t an option for all patients. Wireless charging addresses all of these issues, allowing for smaller and more versatile implantable devices that can cater to diverse body types, and eliminating battery replacement surgeries. This breakthrough not only enhances patient comfort but also ensures that individuals can benefit from advanced medical interventions regardless of their body types or circumstances.

Example: Wireless Charging in Neurostimulators

Neurostimulators used for conditions like chronic pain or neurological disorders often require implantation in delicate areas. Wireless charging technology not only eliminates the need for bulky batteries but also ensures that these devices can be smaller and safely charged without compromising patient well-being, for example, as patients move around and live their lives.

3. Expanded Access to Care through Healthcare from Home

Perhaps one of the most impactful strides toward healthcare equity is the advent of home-based care. Telemedicine and remote patient monitoring have dismantled geographical and mobility barriers, ensuring that healthcare is not confined to hospitals and clinics. Individuals who face challenges in accessing traditional healthcare settings due to factors like mobility issues, transportation constraints, or residing in remote areas can now receive timely and personalized care from the comfort of their homes.

Example: Remote Monitoring Devices

Wearable devices equipped with sensors allow individuals to monitor vital signs, track chronic conditions, and transmit real-time health data to healthcare providers. This is particularly crucial for those managing chronic diseases like diabetes, where continuous monitoring can lead to early intervention and improved outcomes.

Ensuring everyone has the healthcare they need is a necessary goal and these are just some examples of work being done to make it a reality. So much more is needed and what’s clear is a more equitable future involves embracing technological innovations that break down barriers, increase diversity, and ensure that everyone, regardless of body type or location, has access to quality medical care. The ongoing commitment to better device design and expanding healthcare access give us hope for a healthcare future that truly prioritizes the needs and well-being of every individual.

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