As the global population continues to grow and age, and improvements in access to healthcare are made, the semiconductor and electronics industry has much to offer the growing sector of eHealth and medical electronics/semi (see this recent article in eHealth). An important bridge point for semi is in microfluidic applications, a sector that is expected to rise to a US $4 billion industry by 2016, according to recent research from Yole Développement:
"The microfluidic device market is quickly evolving and entering a "structuration and consolidation phase," said report author Frédéric Breussin, Yole Développement. Many products are moving from prototyping to production. Many new players recently entered the supply chain, bringing expertise in the mass production of electronic devices and modules. This could create a microfluidics eco system where production costs are reduced enough to make disposable microfluidic devices accessible for the medical market."
While seemingly a nice point of interest, the maturation of microfluidics is important for medical semi because microfluidics informs the drug delivery systems for implanted medical devices as well as serves the key diagnostic market for high volume, disposable, medical testing supplies, such as this recent breakthrough of a blood analysis chip for global healthcare, reported here by ZDnet. Furthermore, the importance and likely to-be highly recommended implanted drug delivery systems are among the most tangible examples of how medical semi is poised to grow along with the maturing microfluidics sector. Because patients are less likely to keep up with daily injections and because locationally targeted drug dispensing is preferred, the medical community is extremely excited by news such as this recently published US study of implanted drug delivery systems that are controlled remotely via a wirelessly controlled microfluidic chip-based system.
Beyond the critical growth in microfluidics, the increasing sophistication of microelectromechanical systems, MEMS, is reaching the mature stages that are ripe for collaboration with the medical semi field. As reported here by ElectroIQ, a grant was recently awarded to ISSYS and the University of Michigan to develop wireless, implantable pressure sensors in pediatric congenital cardiac patients:
"The grant will enable clinical studies in infants and children with complex congenital heart defects. The pediatric medical device field has stringent medical and form factor requirements that have been difficult to meet with traditional technologies. The technology developed under this grant could have "broader applications within the field of adult and pediatric cardiovascular medicine," added [Dr. Nader Najafi, ISSYS president and CEO and the project's technical principal investigator]."
One ought to be quickly realizing the growth opportunities for medical semi for both disposable and routine, medical diagnostics, implanted drug delivery systems, remote monitoring, and complex, critical care and monitoring for the most delicate medical situations (see also this older report on implantable MEMS for cardiac patients from iSuppli).
Already medical semi has seen positive adoption trends and is among the top five growth sectors for the wider semiconductor and electronics industry globally. Next week is HIMSS12, the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society's annual conference, where we certainly expect to see as many new and exciting medical technology (and services) unveilings from over 1,000 exhibitors, as CES recently brought to the consumer electronics sector (see here for some sneak peeks from Information Week, where daily coverage can be accessed).