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Federal officials worry that blood irradiators—machines designed to treat blood before patients receive a transfusion—could threaten public safety, according to an article in the Boston Globe.

Norbert Sparrow

May 14, 2014

4 Min Read
Medtech Digest: From blood irradiators to dirty bombs

Federal officials worry that blood irradiators—machines designed to treat blood before patients receive a transfusion—could threaten public safety, according to an article in the Boston Globe.

medtech-digest-300_1.jpgBlood irradiators use a radioactive material, cesium chloride, to ensure that donated blood does not kill people with weak immune systems. Unfortunately, the radioactive powder also could be used by terrorists to fabricate a dirty bomb. "That has set the stage for an unlikely fight between the government and some in the medical industry who are reluctant to give up the relatively low-cost machines and replace them with more expensive devices that are safer but might break down more frequently," writes Boston Globe journalist Bryan Bender.

A number of people in the medical technology industry and healthcare space oppose replacing blood irradiators because alternative technologies, notably x-ray irradiators, are costly and not reliable. Others contend that some of the resistance stems from the radioisotopes industry, for which cesium irradiation machines have been a lucrative slice of the market, writes Bender.

Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Texas, and California reportedly have the largest quantities of cesium chloride vulnerable to theft.

Countries such as Japan, France, Germany, Canada, and the United Kingdom have widely adopted alternatives such as x-ray technology, according to a survey cited by the Boston Globe.

Wearable technology = Whole Foods?

A link to an article about Obamacare's impact on wearable technology on the Digital Health group page on LinkedIn generated some interesting comments that are worth sharing.

The article, published by MIT Technology Review, recounts the hullabaloo about digital health at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas earlier this year. In essence, digital health technologies and the Affordable Care Act were characterized at the event as a "dynamic duo" that would incentivize . . . insurers, healthcare providers, and consumers to cut costs and drive them into the arms of the digital health industry, writes Natasha Dow Schüll, Associate Professor, MIT. She points out, however, that most of the discussions at the CES Digital Health Summit focused on the well, not the sick. "As speakers frequently reminded attendees, half of the monstrous $2.7 trillion expended annually in the U.S. on healthcare is spent on conditions linked to everyday habits—and choices—such as overeating, underexercising, and smoking," writes Schüll. "Individual self-management was held up as the ultimate key to controlling the physical—and financial—costs of these 'lifestyle diseases.' "

Commenting on the article on LinkedIn, Sue Sherry writes:
"Am I missing something? This article . . . is not about Obamacare or the sick, or a better healthcare system. It is about the healthy and phone techno heads who track their health. My kid goes to a middle school with 20% low-income [students]; the parents cannot figure out e-mail, let alone healthcare on a device."

To which David Dubbs, founder and CEO of MyDigitalHealth Network, adds:

"The VCs that fund [mobile] health and the media that write about it live in a bubble. They don't see that many more people do their grocery shopping at Costco than at Whole Foods. The vast majority of people who have chronic disease (where most healthcare dollars go) are not tech savvy, do not have access to high speed Internet, and are not tracking their health with mobile apps.

"Long term this will change. But developers have to think like Apple ... that is, how do we deliver elegantly simple solutions that empower patients, not force them to become geeks?"

Whither Siemens Healthcare?

As part of a far-reaching strategic overhaul that includes the acquisition of turbine assets from Rolls-Royce and a public listing of its hearing-aid business, Siemens announced that its healthcare division will operate independently from the rest of the group starting in October 2014.

Siemens Healthcare is the most profitable branch of the German giant, reports sister brand emdt, and this could be a first step in grooming the division for a sale. The healthcare division reported €14 billion in sales last year, writes the Financial Times, adding that the "move is likely to ignite fresh speculation on whether the company will spin off or sell the division. Analysts have repeatedly said the business would be worth more as a standalone entity."

The changes align with the "Vision 2020" plan articulated by new CEO Joe Kaeser, which involves focusing on the areas of electrification, automotive, and digitization where he feels the company has a competitive advantage and can pursue long-term, profitable growth, according to the FT.

And that was the medtech week that was.

Norbert Sparrow

Norbert Sparrow is Senior Editor at PlasticsToday. Follow him on twitter @norbertcsparrow and Google+.

About the Author(s)

Norbert Sparrow

Editor in chief of PlasticsToday since 2015, Norbert Sparrow has more than 30 years of editorial experience in business-to-business media. He studied journalism at the Centre Universitaire d'Etudes du Journalisme in Strasbourg, France, where he earned a master's degree.


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