The next health frontier:
image-guided therapies

How clinical and technological innovation go hand in hand to enable procedures that can create exceptional results for patients, caretakers and the healthcare industry.

Is there a person in your life who has suffered from a heart attack or severe heart disease? It’s highly probably that you’ve witnessed a family member or friend fall victim to heart issues — and that person has likely received open heart surgery or endured another type of invasive treatment to treat it.

After undergoing the procedure, he or she likely spent a few days (at least) in the hospital, hooked up to a variety of heavy, cumbersome devices and monitors. Then, along with the aches and pains of recovery, that person went back home with a slew of physical restrictions until they were healed. Hopefully, proper care at home ensured that friend or family member did not end up back in the hospital. Not only was the procedure a long — and uncomfortable — experience for the patient, the cost to perform these procedures was likely astronomical for the hospital too.

Lowering admission rates, reducing the length of hospital stays and improved financial outcomes are hotly discussed topics in the healthcare realm. To help alleviate these issues, the industry is continually in search of new innovations, tests and monitoring products to reduce the burden. At the same time, the industry needs to consistently create new business models to help address the economic challenges faced by patients and providers. One of the most prominent transformations in the healthcare industry is the recent move from open surgery to image-guided, minimally invasive procedures.

Minimally invasive procedures have become a reality thanks to broad integrated systems that include both hospital solutions and smart imaging devices, creating significantly more value for physicians and their patients through total procedure efficiency. This is a fast growing area where we now see that a full integration of different solutions and devices helps surgeons see inside the human body without the need for traditional open surgery.

The latest addition to this innovation area is the incorporation of in-body imaging as part of a total integration solution: systems providing images from outside of the body facilitate small devices and instruments, like catheters, to be introduced in to the bloodstream, and are guided to precisely the right place. At the same time, physicians can see exactly what they are doing on large monitors strategically placed above the surgical table. This allows for navigation in an area that otherwise can’t be seen.

Though complex and technically demanding due to the need for integration of real-time information from a variety of systems and data sources, minimally invasive procedures can help create better clinical outcomes.

There is increased clinical evidence which demonstrates that the use of in-body imaging in conjunction with interventional X-ray imaging helps improve procedural outcomes.

Minimally invasive procedures are rapidly growing, significantly driven by the benefits they offer to both healthcare systems and patients. The reduction of patient trauma, as well as post-surgical discomfort and pain, leads to shorter recovery times and hospital stays, equating to lower overall health costs. Plus, the combination of advanced systems, software and smart devices in one solution helps doctors provide exceptional quality care to patients.

A variety of heart defects are now treated with minimally invasive therapies, and the number is expected to quadruple from 2013 to 2020. The continual growth of these new procedures is enabled by real-time imaging, fused images, in-body images and advance guidance. Applications are growing across a variety of specialties outside of cardiology, including radiology, oncology and neurology, as demand for better therapies is increasing from hospitals and health providers. This is also positive news for patients, especially those too ill to undergo typical invasive surgical procedures. Minimally invasive procedures can help those with untreated health issues or weak heart valves receive the care they need while avoiding the risks of traditional surgeries.

Plus, there are many cost savings associated with minimally invasive procedures due to shorter hospital stays, better technologies and lower readmission rates.

Take this as some food for thought: According to a recent article from DOTMed, if hospitals in the United States performed more minimally-invasive procedures over traditional surgical procedures, they could save between $280 and $340 million a year.

Minimally invasive procedures are seemingly a win-win for patients, providers and hospitals. What will the future hold? The sky is the limit.