AI, robotic surgery among top 10 medical innovations of 2019

Artificial intelligence, 3D printing and robotic surgery are among the up-and-coming technologies selected for the Cleveland Clinic’s list of the top 10 medical innovations for 2019.

The provider organization, which picks those advancements poised to change healthcare in the coming year, made the announcement Wednesday at its annual Medical Innovation Summit.

A panel of Cleveland Clinic physicians and scientists, led by Michael Roizen, MD, chief wellness officer, selected the following technologies in order of importance:

  1. Alternative Therapy for Pain: Fighting the Opioid Crisis
  2. The Advent of AI in Healthcare
  3. Expanded Window for Acute Stroke Intervention
  4. Advances in Immunotherapy for Cancer Treatment
  5. Patient-Specific Products Achieved with 3D Printing
  6. Virtual and Mixed Reality for Medical Education
  7. Visor for Pre-hospital Stroke Diagnosis
  8. Innovation in Robotic Surgery
  9. Mitral and Tricuspid Valve Percutaneous Replacement and Repair
  10. RNA-Based Therapies
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AI in healthcare—which appears second on the list—is being used for applications such as decision support, image analysis and patient triage. “Today, artificial intelligence is helping physicians make smarter decisions at the point of care, improving the ease and accuracy of viewing patient scans and reducing physician burnout,” according to the Cleveland Clinic. “For instance, machine learning algorithms have the ability to highlight problem areas on images, aiding in the screening process and quickly making sense of the mountains of data within a physician’s EMR system.”

Ed Marx, the Cleveland Clinic’s chief information officer, contends that AI is “really a game changer” for healthcare. “We’ve seen sound results early on with pathology, radiology and dermatology,” Marx said. “We call it augmented intelligence, not artificial intelligence, because we will never replace the clinician, the empathy, the touch that we give to our patients.”

Another breakthrough technology is 3D printing, which is now enabling medical devices to be matched to the exact specifications of a patient.

“Everybody tends to be different, (especially) when we’re facing problems related to anatomic structures—where the diseases manifest differently in each human being,” said Tom Gildea, MD, with the Cleveland Clinic’s Respiratory Institute. “This ability to impact patients’ lives directly with technology specifically designed for them—that certainly is going to have great hope going forward in many different specialties.”

Devices modeled from patient-specific dimensions are more compatible with an individual’s natural anatomy and have shown greater acceptance by the body, increased comfort and improved performance outcomes, according to the Cleveland Clinic.

Virtual and mixed reality technologies are helping to advance medical education by providing simulation training that serves to enhance traditional medical schooling.

The Cleveland Clinic and Zygote Medical Education have joined forces to develop a virtual reality-based clinical anatomy curriculum to train future doctors. The medically accurate and precise 3D anatomical models are designed to be easily accessible via mobile and desktop apps to complement the VR curriculum.

“Understanding the 3D relationship between various structures in the human body—down to the microscopic level—is critical,” said Neil Mehta, MD, with the Cleveland Clinic’s Education Institute. “Mixed reality and virtual reality really lets you do this in a very unique way.”

Also on the Cleveland Clinic’s list is a new visor-like device worn by patients that can help providers and emergency medical personnel detect a stroke that requires comprehensive care within seconds and with 92 percent accuracy. The visor received FDA clearance in January and is expected to be commercially available in 2019.

Also See: Device able to quickly and accurately detect stroke

The volumetric impedance phase shift spectroscopy (VIPS) device identifies patients having a stroke by sending low-energy radio waves through the brain that assess fluid volume differences (asymmetry) between the cerebral hemispheres, which are indicative of stroke.

“It’s hard to diagnose stroke in the field,” said Mark Bain, MD, director of cerebrovascular surgery in the Cleveland Clinic’s Neurological Institute. “This visor is pretty amazing. With a 92 percent accuracy rate, it can tell if you’re having a large stroke or a large bleed in the brain. We can organize our stroke systems so that we can get patients to hospitals faster to treat them. Over the next year or two, you’re going to be seeing this visor on ambulance units.”

When it comes to innovation in robotic surgery, the Cleveland Clinic contends that continued advancement in the field has led to more precise and effective surgeries with improved surgical outcomes.

“Robotics by itself is not new to medicine,” said Jihad Kaouk, MD, director of the Cleveland Clinic’s Center for Robotic and Image Guided Surgery. “It moved from being in the operating room mostly for urology and cardiology into fields that were not there before,” he added, noting that surgical platforms are highly advanced and are being used anywhere from spine to endovascular procedures.

Earlier this month, it was announced that urologic surgeons at the Cleveland Clinic were the first in the country to successfully perform prostate surgery using a new generation of robot that inserts surgical instruments through a small incision.

Surgeons used the Single Port SP Robot from Intuitive Surgical to remove cancerous prostates as well as an enlarged prostate blocking the urinary system through the bladder. The ability to enter the body through a single small incision helps surgeons perform more complex procedures while improving surgical outcomes and enabling quicker patient recovery, according to Kaouk.

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