Health Wellness This Week

The Age of the Bionic Human | Health & Wellness This Week

This article is part of ParkerWhite’s weekly series, “Health and Wellness This Week,” a roundup of the latest healthcare marketing news and what it means for your marketing strategy.

This week, we look at how “bionic” advances in medicinal technology are shaping the future of our medical needs. How vision is being restored, how amputees’ prosthetic limbs are responding to their natural reflexes, and how a tape-like device can read basic body vital signs.

This week in health and wellness:

  • Restoring vision to the blind
  • Amputees regain limb functions with robotic assistance
  • Flexible nanosensors adapt to the curvature of human skin

Hope for the Blind

Degenerative eye diseases affect about 1.5 million people worldwide, who lose their ability to see properly, or even become completely blind. The ability to restore vision is quickly becoming a reality thanks to products like the Argus II Retinal Prosthesis System. This technology acts as photoreceptors that have been lost through disease. With the system, users can have their vision restored by wearing a battery pack housed with a video processing unit. A patient will wear a pair of specialized glasses that processes light and dark pulses to a receiver implanted underneath the subject’s skin. The receiver is connected to an electrode array implanted at the back of the affected eye, thus providing the retina’s photoreceptors information to “see” again.

Although full vision cannot be restored to 20/20, advancement of this technology expects a higher quality and camera-free alternative, with retinal implants, that look similar to computer chips by 2017. Competition in the eye implant industry is high in America. Gene therapy and retinal cell transplants are contenders against options using camera-based technology.

Marketing Strategy Insights

  • Bionic eyesight technology could assist 1.5 million people around the globe suffering from degenerative eye disease.
  • The interest in vision-restoring technology is bringing a wave of competition in the eye implant industry.
  • Varied forms of treatment may create a strong market by 2017 as blindness continues to affect millions globally.

Amputees Regain Function With Bionic Hands

Three patients in Austria have received working robotic hands. This new high-tech bionic hand has been outfitted with sensors that respond to electric impulses and are generated by the patient’s muscles. These bionic hands are made to work with sensors linked to a neural pathway, which is extracted, from a patient’s healthy nerve and muscle tissue, then the patient is given extensive rehabilitation to learn use of their new limb. Dexterity soon returns to patients and they are able to perform tasks such as pouring water from a jug, handling keys, and undoing buttons.

Pre-surgical training for patients going through robotic transplants is provided through virtual training to prepare and educate them on how to control their new limbs. Training can take up to 12 months, followed by post-surgery rehabilitation for patients to help physically adjust to using their robotic limbs.

Marketing Strategy Insights

  • This new and effective technology has the potential to be spread worldwide to help amputees regain control of their livelihood.
  • Pre-surgical training with the use of virtual technology creates a broader market in the healthcare industry, assisting patients in preparing both mentally and physically for major operations.

Flexible Nanosensors For Wearable Devices

A new optical nanosensor is be being developed by scientists that will be flexible enough to easily adapt to the curvature of biological surfaces such as human skin. These nanosensors will provide wearers ease of use when checking their heart pressure, temperature, and even chemical substances. The look of this seemingly simple tape-like device will display with iridescent coloring that varies according to viewing and illumination angles.

These optical nanosensors use low-cost materials such as aluminum and regular adhesive tapes. Aluminum is 25,000 times less expensive than gold and has superior electrical and optical properties, thus providing a cost-effective and easy-to-use wearable device to consumers. The sensors are fitted with adhesive tape and are only 1mm x 1mm.

Marketing Strategy Insights

  • This flexible nanotechnology could provide consumers comfort and ease of use compared to other wearable devices on the market.
  • As wearable technology continues to advance, healthcare companies will need to continue to adapt and improve their product offerings to stay on top of the ever-changing market.