Business & Finance

Optimised motors for wearable medtech

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Dave Walsha, sales manager at precision drive system supplier EMS explains how advances in wearable medtech are providing patients with freedom and flexibility.

There are over 15 million people living with a long-term physical health condition in the UK. Providing patients with the freedom to live a fulfilling life is an essential part of their healthcare but 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, regular treatments such as dialysis or chemotherapy. If some of these treatments could be received at home, not only would patients receive significant additional freedom, but it would ease some of the pressure faced by an overstretched NHS.

Delivering chemotherapy drugs

According to Cancer Research’s latest figures, of the 363,000 people diagnosed with cancer in the UK each year, 28% are receiving chemotherapy — equating to around 100,000 people per year. Patients receiving chemotherapy drugs via an IV in hospital must spend several hours on ward every week. This can be a huge disruption to an individual’s life and costs relating to travel, hospital parking and other personal expenses can quickly add up. Plus, the stress of dealing with 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 treatment’s side effects, receiving treatment at home may bring patients comfort and relief. They can go and see friends and family, undertake 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 deliver chemotherapy drugs over a period of several days. AIPs are small, allowing 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 drugs at a constant, steady rate.  

Insulin pumps 

Patients living with life-long health conditions can also benefit from wearable health tech. There are currently approximately 400,000 people living with type 1 diabetes in the UK, who must regularly inject themselves with insulin to prevent their blood sugar becoming too high or low.

While insulin injections don’t have to be administered in a clinical environment, they are often a huge inconvenience in a person’s life. Frequent injections are uncomfortable and many people dislike 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. They are small, wearable 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 required.

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 accurately actuate a plunger a specific amount moving insulin from a reservoir and into the tubing to provide fast, reliable, and precise insulin delivery. 

Drug delivery with accuracy 

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

As the pumps are being worn by patients, they must be absolutely quiet. FAULHABER’s drive technology with cogging-free running ensure that drive-related vibrations or running noises are not noticeable in the device. It also delivers high power in a small space envelope.

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

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