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Which Healthcare Innovations Made TIME's Top 100 List?

Analysis  |  By Mandy Roth  
   November 19, 2020

Vocera Smartbadge, an AI-powered platform that matches patients to clinical trials, and the technology behind COVID-19 vaccines are cited.

Now hear this: the wearable Vocera Smartbadge, which enables hands-free calls and communication between healthcare team members, has been named to TIME’s 100 Best Inventions of 2020—a compendium that also cited the technology behind leader COVID-19 vaccines.

Developed by San Jose, California-based Vocera Communications, the Smartbadge can be worn under personal protective equipment (PPE), "minimizing the risk of contamination and helping preserve valuable PPE," according to a news release. It can be attached to clothing or worn as a necklace.

“You never have to stop what you’re doing, reach in your pocket and pull out your phone, or take off your gloves to interact with another device,” Vocera CEO Brent Lang said to TIME. The report indicates the system is used by more than 100 healthcare facilities.

Worn by nurses, doctors, and other care team members, users activate the device by saying, “OK, Vocera.” The individual then issues commands to call individuals or teams and collaborate hands-free while in isolation, scrubbed in, or wearing surgical gloves. "During the coronavirus pandemic, hands-free communication technology for hospital workers is a lifeline to reach help and access resources without introducing the risk of infection," according to the news release.

Vocera Smartbadge (Photo courtesy of Vocera Communications)

More than 10% of the innovations included on TIME's list were related to healthcare. Among those relevant to hospitals and health systems:

  • TrialJectory is an artificial intelligence-powered decision support platform that sorts through thousands of clinical trials to find matches between patients and suitable cancer clinical trials.
  • By measuring moisture levels below the skin’s surface, the Provizio SEM Scanner prevents the development of bed sores by identifying problems up to five days earlier than visual detection. "The roughly 30 U.S. hospitals already using the device report treating up to 90% fewer bedsores than before," according to TIME.
  • xvision, a headset created by Augmedics, uses augmented reality to turn a patient’s CT scan into a 3D visualization to guide spinal surgeons through operations. According to TIME, the device is already in use at The Johns Hopkins Hospital and Rush University Medical Center.
  • With frontline worker's lives at stake from exposure to COVID-19, knowing the proper way to wear PPE, administer treatment, or ventilate patients is vital. Virti, an augmented and virtual reality training platform, is doing just that for workers around the globe.
  • OptiClean, a mobile air purifier built by Carrier, turns any room into a negative air-­pressure space, pushing potentially contaminated air through a high-­efficiency HEPA filter before releasing it back into the room. It also can simply filter out airborne pathogens.
  • Additional healthcare innovations cited by TIME include mRNA vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna, the OraSure at-home COVID-19 sample-­collection kit, the Nella NuSpec Reusable Vaginal Speculum, and the Under the Weather IntubationPod, which shields patients and workers during medical procedures. A variety of consumer health and fitness products were also on the list.

For 2020’s list, TIME solicited nominations from its editors and correspondents around the world. Entries were evaluated based on originality, effectiveness, ambition, and impact.

“You never have to stop what you’re doing, reach in your pocket and pull out your phone, or take off your gloves to interact with another device.”

Mandy Roth is the innovations editor at HealthLeaders.


More than 10% of the innovations cited were related to healthcare.

Many of the products had applications related to COVID-19.

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