Categories: Tech News

Engines optimized for wearable medical technology

Dave Walsha, Precision Sales Director supplier of drive systems EMS explains how advances in wearable medical technology are providing patients with freedom and flexibility.

There are more than 15 million people living with a long-term physical illness in the UK. Giving patients the freedom to live a full life is an essential part of their health care, but it can be difficult to balance with regular medical treatment.

The number of patients referred for NHS outpatient care – treatment that does not require an overnight stay – increased by 42% between 2009 and 2020. Many of these outpatient appointments are for repeated and regular treatments such as dialysis or chemotherapy If some of these treatments could be received at home, patients would not only be given significant additional freedom, but would relieve some of the pressure facing an overstretched NHS.

Delivery of chemotherapy drugs

According to the latest figures from Cancer Research, of the 363,000 people diagnosed with cancer in the UK each year, 28% receive chemotherapy, equivalent to around 100,000 people a year. Patients who receive chemotherapy drugs intravenously in the hospital must spend several hours in the ward each week. This can be a huge disruption to a person’s life and costs related to travel, hospital parking and other personal expenses can add up quickly. Additionally, the stress of facing a cancer diagnosis is only amplified by spending so much time in an unfamiliar clinical environment.

While removing the hospital environment from chemotherapy cannot mitigate the side effects of treatment, receiving treatment at home can bring comfort and relief to patients. They can visit friends and family, carry out normal daily activities or simply rest, all while receiving treatment.

An ambulatory infusion pump (AIP) is a small, battery-powered pump that can be used to slowly administer chemotherapy drugs over a period of several days. AIPs are small and allow the patient to remain mobile during treatment. Typically, ambulatory pumps are controlled by a microprocessor that regulates the infusion flow, and a motor is responsible for consistently delivering the drugs at a steady, steady rate.

Insulin pumps

Patients living with lifelong health conditions can also benefit from wearable health technology. There are currently approximately 400,000 people living with type 1 diabetes in the UK, who need regular injections of insulin to prevent their blood sugar from going too high or too low.

Although insulin injections should not be given in a clinical setting, they are often a major inconvenience in a person’s life. Frequent injections are uncomfortable and many people do not like having to administer them in a public place. For the 29,000 children in the UK with type 1 diabetes, managing the condition can be particularly difficult.

Insulin pumps offer an alternative to injections. These are small, portable devices that deliver insulin to the patient’s body through a tube called a cannula. This can be at a constant, set rate, but the pumps are also capable of delivering bolus insulin, an extra dose of fast-acting insulin, if needed.

Many modern insulin pumps can also communicate with continuous glucose monitors that track the patient’s blood sugar levels. Using this information, a motor will precisely actuate a piston a specific amount that moves insulin from a reservoir and into the tube to provide fast, reliable, and accurate delivery of insulin.

Accurate drug delivery

Whether dispensing chemotherapy drugs or insulin, these medical devices must function with utmost precision, as the slightest deviation from the required dose could have dangerous consequences. EMS is the sole UK and Ireland supplier of FAULHABER engines, which are manufactured in a finely controlled manufacturing process that ensures they operate with high repeatability and reliability.

Because the pumps are worn by patients, they must be absolutely silent. FAULHABER’s drive technology with gearless operation ensures that driving-related vibrations or noises are not felt in the device. It also offers great power in a small space.

Coping with a long-term illness can be detrimental to all aspects of a patient’s life. Infusion pumps alleviate some of the practical difficulties of receiving regular medical treatment, allowing patients to focus on living their lives as normally as possible. When powered by precise and accurate motors, wearable medical technology can transform healthcare.


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