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What Innovations Made Cleveland Clinic's Top 10 List?

Analysis  |  By Mandy Roth  
   October 24, 2018

To improve patient care and outcomes, consider these advances that experts predict have the power to transform healthcare in 2019.

They interviewed dozens of scientific experts, elicited more than 100 nominations, and created one list. As the Cleveland Clinic's 2018 Medical Innovation Summit closed today, the health system released its annual Top 10 Medical Innovations list, the developments its innovators expect to have the greatest power to transform healthcare over the next year.

As health systems explore ways to improve patient care and outcomes, these ideas may be worth consideration and could help set priorities. Some innovations are specific to issues or conditions, such as pharmacogenomic testing to address the use of opioids, as well as new diagnostic technology and guidelines for stroke treatment. Others involve advances with the potential to impact multiple areas of medicine, such as artificial intelligence (AI), robotic surgery, virtual reality, and 3-D printing.

The list of up-and-coming technologies was selected by a panel of Cleveland Clinic physicians and scientists, led by Michael Roizen, MD, chief wellness officer at Cleveland Clinic.

"Healthcare is ever-changing, and we anticipate that innovations such as cancer immunotherapy and pharmacogenomics will significantly transform the medical field and improve care for patients at Cleveland Clinic and throughout the world," said Roizen in a news release.

Listed in order of anticipated importance, here are the Top 10 Medical Innovations of 2019:

1. Alternative Therapy for Pain: Fighting the Opioid Crisis

By providing the opportunity to tailor medication therapy, pharmacogenomic testing may provide a method to impact the opioid crisis. This approach uses a patient’s genetic makeup to predict an individual’s metabolism of drugs, including some opiate-based medications. It can be used to avoid adverse reactions and replace unnecessary and ineffective prescriptions with more effective medications. Pharmacogenomics can also be used to predict who may have little or no pain relief from some opiate-based analgesics. 

2. The Advent of AI in Healthcare

With applications in decision support, image analysis, and patient triage, AI is already changing the way healthcare is practiced. It helps physicians make smarter decisions at the point of care, and machine learning algorithms have the ability to highlight problem areas on images, aiding in the screening process and quickly making sense of voluminous data within a physician’s EMR system. Rapid adoption of this technology for these and other uses will continue to make inroads in the year ahead.

3. Expanded Window for Acute Stroke Intervention

New guidelines released this year suggest an expanded window of time for stroke intervention. The lengthened timeframe is anticipated to reduce the risk of disability and provide opportunity for recovery to an increased number of future patients.

4. Advances in Immunotherapy for Cancer Treatment

Cancer immunotherapy, or biologic therapy, uses the body’s own immune system to fight cancer. While immunotherapies for cancer have existed for some time, worldwide research continues to identify novel immunotherapeutic targets. Scientists are creating life-changing new cancer treatments through the concepts of joint therapy and engineered T-cells. With the ongoing discovery of new immunotherapeutic targets and biomarkers, effective therapies are emerging for an increasing number of tumor profiles.

5. Patient-Specific Products Achieved with 3-D Printing

3-D printing technology promises to impact multiple aspects of medical treatment. Because medical devices can now be matched to a patient's exact specifications, they demonstrate greater acceptance by the body, increased comfort, and improved performance outcomes. This method is being used to designing external prosthetics, cranial/orthopedic implants, and customized airway stents for diseases narrowing the airway. Work in prosthetics and other bodily implants is also gaining speed with some solutions cleared for the commercial market. The technology also assists in surgical planning for complicated heart surgeries as well as Cleveland Clinic’s most recent total face transplant.

6. Virtual and Mixed Reality for Medical Education

Virtual and mixed reality (VR/MR) systems are helping healthcare professionals sharpen their own skills and are becoming an increasingly popular way to educate the next generation of health professionals. Simulation training enhances traditional approaches to learning, and the immersive experience appeals to all types of learners: audio, visual, and kinesthetic. VR/MR systems may enhance the educational process and better prepare healthcare providers for practice.

7. Visor for Prehospital Stroke Diagnosis

Hemorrhagic strokes—during which blood escapes from a ruptured blood vessel in the brain—are responsible for nearly 40% of stroke deaths. To speed diagnosis, healthcare professionals are using new, advanced technologies such as the hemorrhage scanning visor, which can detect bleeding in the brain. An efficient diagnostic tool, the visor for prehospital hemorrhage scanning speeds up diagnosis and time to treatment.

8. Innovation in Robotic Surgery

Robots in the operating room provide surgeons with the opportunity for enhanced surgical precision. Minimally invasive robotized surgery reduces recovery time and post-surgical pain. Continued advancements are expected to lead to more precise and effective surgeries with improved surgical outcomes.

9. Mitral and Tricuspid Valve Percutaneous Replacement and Repair

Expansion of percutaneous cardiac surgery, performed via a catheter through the skin, has significant implications for the future of cardiac care by reducing the risk and trauma associated with more invasive procedures.  Following the success of aortic valve percutaneous intervention, recent percutaneous mitral and tricuspid valve intervention has yielded significant positive outcomes while filling a void in the field of heart surgery. Exploration of this technology in a greater patient population is ongoing.

10. RNA-Based Therapies

Akin to DNA-based gene therapies, RNA-based therapies have shown immense potential. Interfering with genetic data at the ribonucleic acid (RNA) level gives scientists the ability to intercept a patient’s genetic abnormality before it is translated into functioning (or nonfunctioning) proteins. The most popular and successful mechanisms of RNA therapy include antisense nucleotides and RNA interference. These therapies are being explored in a variety of rare genetic diseases such as Huntington’s disease, as well as in cancer and neurologic diseases, with the hope of treatment by way of alternate genetic data.

Mandy Roth is the innovations editor at HealthLeaders.

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