Pushing the Boundaries of Healthcare Technology

Amazing ideas often start with the question: Why? Why do we do it that way when it would be much better to do it this way? When it comes to technology, especially healthcare technology, additional questions follow, like "How does someone create something that they've never seen before?"

The germ of a new healthcare technology concept may start within a single person's imagination, but to become real it needs to percolate with the creative and innovative inputs of others. Think of imagination, creativity and innovation like runners in the first three legs of a relay race, each one leading to the other, passing the baton toward completion.

To bring it home across the finish line, the final anchor leg must pull on the strength and momentum from the prior stages. This is the distance Jabil covers for our customers, straddling the strategic capabilities, expertise, and execution lying between technological fantasy and finished product. We are in many ways an engine for innovation and an ideal partner for expanding the boundaries of what's possible.

Technology and innovation are transforming healthcare. Interdependent stakeholders across the healthcare industry — care providers, payers, regulators and, of course, patients — are adopting and supporting powerful new ways to deliver better, more personalized treatment.

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But before we look at what's ahead, let's take a look back at how evolving and emerging technology have led to changes in the practice of medicine as we know it.

Endoscopy Shows the Way

The space race of the 1950s and '60s was the culmination of hundreds and even thousands of years of dreaming, humankind looking toward the night sky and envisioning a flight to the moon. In parallel to this outward dream quest, medical pioneers were working the other side of the street, driven by a more inward-facing exploratory vision.

Endoscopic technology is at the heart of minimally invasive medical (MID) practices. The benefits of minimally invasive devices are proven out by decades of improved patient outcomes: less pain, shorter recovery time, reduced scarring, lower risk of infection, and reduced time spent in hospital or other clinical setting. While primitive forms of endoscopy have existed for hundreds of years, the journey to modern endoscopy's accomplishments has required overcoming four main challenges:

  • Creating or expanding entrances to the interior body
  • Safely delivering enough light into the interior space
  • Transmitting a clear and magnified image back to the surgical team, and
  • Expanding the field of vision

As a Business Unit Director for Jabil's healthcare division, I get the chance to see our capabilities and expertise in action across all the industries we serve, not just the medical field. When I read this list of challenges, what I see threaded throughout is a list of requirements for advanced manufacturing solutions.

My response is a collective affirmation — Yes!

Jabil does all of this: advanced optics, sensors and connectivity technologies. And through our collaboration agreement with Johnson & Johnson Medical Devices (JJMD) we manufacture precision medical instruments, too.

Heart of the Matter

Here's another list for dissection — smaller, faster, less cost. All players in the healthcare system are on the same page with these mission-critical objectives. Over the last 50 years, spending on health care worldwide has consistently outpaced broader economic growth. If this trend line holds for another 30 years, most Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries will be spending more than a fifth of their GDP on healthcare in 2050.

With outcome-based reimbursements increasingly forming the economic scaffolding of global health payment systems, minimally invasive medical procedures are poised to give a significant boost for meeting the metrics at the heart of value-based care (VBC).

Smaller incisions allow fewer bacteria to cross the skin barrier, decreasing the risk of infection. Smaller cuts mean less physical area the body needs to heal (quicker recovery) and less chance of impacting the patient beyond the intended target, lessening expensive complications.

Consider a coronary artery bypass graft (CABG) — a surgical procedure to treat a blockage or narrowing of one or more of the coronary arteries to restore blood supply to the heart muscle.

Traditional bypass surgery requires the surgeon to make a large incision in the chest, temporarily stop the heart, cut the breastbone (sternum) in half lengthwise and spread the patient's chest apart just to get started with the main event. Less invasive techniques include "off-pump" procedures, in which the heart does not have to be stopped, and minimally invasive procedures, such as keyhole surgery (done through very small incisions) and robotic procedures (done with the aid of a moving mechanical device).

Then there's TECAB

Totally endoscopic coronary artery bypass (TECAB) surgery is an exciting breakthrough approach to performing coronary bypass surgery, merging the advantages of both minimally invasive devices and robotic surgery technologies.

A TECAB procedure is performed utilizing a surgical robotics system, which allows the surgeon to direct precise movements. An endoscope-mounted camera delivers an excellent view of the coronary arteries and images of the surgical site magnified on the order of 10 times more detail than unaided human vision.

Positioned in front of a high-definition video display of the endoscope's real-time surgical site imaging feed, the surgeon manipulates the system's tiny instruments so that they move like a human hand. But better, actually — a lot better. The system's built-in tremor-filtration technology ensures far greater range of motion and precision than the surgeon could accomplish on their own.

Harnessing healthcare technologies to extend, enhance and improve the vision and tactile manipulative capabilities of even the most skilled and accomplished surgeons is game-changing, driving patient care satisfaction higher and overall healthcare costs lower. Smaller incisions usually mean that less blood is lost during the procedure. As a result, the need for blood transfusions decreases or even goes away completely. Other advantages include shorter hospital stays due to faster overall recovery. There's also less reported pain due to less disruption of tissue, allowing patients to return to their normal work and life activities faster and with fewer complications.

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A Change of Heart via 3D Printing

And just for sake of honoring imagination, recognize the potential for additive manufacturing technology to facilitate bypass procedures with synthetic vessel grafts and tissue constructs and further revolutionize cardiac care. Even as the challenges remain considerable, bioprinted organs, including hearts, are slowly inching towards reality.

Every year, millions of people require treatment for tissue or organ failure resulting from disease, trauma, or aging. In the United States alone, more than 120,000 people were waiting for an organ donor in 2015, while only around 31,000 found a suitable transplant. 3D-printed materials hold great promise as alternatives to the transplants of native blood vessels and organs.

More than two years ago, reports hit the wires of significant breakthroughs in the development of bio-printed tissue and organs utilizing hydrogels. In April of 2019, a team of scientists at Tel Aviv University in Israel 3D-printed the first vascularized, engineered heart using a human patient's own cells and biological materials.

Regenerative medical applications have significant hurdles to cross, but one of innovation's unique preconditions is to think differently and fail fast. Partnering Jabil's additive manufacturing capabilities, particularly additive manufacturing's prototyping benefits, alongside our materials science expertise positions Jabil perfectly for these transactions. The faster we fail, the faster we can assess, analyze and adjust to help move our customers forward.

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Jabil’s Team Approach to Healthcare Technology 

Jabil is ideally equipped to address the convergence of technologies in healthcare. Our Jabil Healthcare Engineering & Technology (JHET) and Radius teams provide a full range of services from drawing board to distribution. Whether customers need a completely new concept or a product that needs technical or value upgrades, Jabil innovation teams apply a collective know-how distilled from their diverse engineering specialties to propel the project down the home stretch. Every engineering discipline required for the design, development and commercialization of a healthcare technology solution is available right here. 

The advantage of having multiple sectors and engineers involved in a project is that they tend to approach problems differently. Clarity emerges through a rich multitude of perspectives. Jabil Healthcare viewed this power of collective teamwork firsthand, when the division launched a bold proof-of-concept for a connected minimally invasive device, code-named “Project Under Pressure.” Across the company, a variety of teams collaborated, including engineers from JHET, as well as experts in advanced assembly, automation, software design and additive manufacturing, to build a “smart” connected catheter for measuring blood pressure in the heart. 

Vidyard Cover

Making this pressure-sensing catheter “connected,” as well as the right size for application within minimally invasive surgeries, required the expertise of the Jabil optics team to fine-tune the integration of high performing sensors. In just the few years since that project (as sensors have become smaller and procedure requirements more advanced), the need to integrate state-of-the-art capabilities in optics, miniaturization and connected technology has only increased. 

Leveraging connected, digital technology together with minimally invasive medical devices and high-performance optics technology has healthcare poised at an exceptional moment for delivering on concepts that have for years seemed the purview of medical futurists. 

The number speak for themselves. The global connected healthcare market is expected to reach $52 billion by 2027, growing at a CAGR of 18% between 2020 and 2027. In addition, MarketsandMarkets estimates that the minimally invasive device market will be worth $32.7 billion by 2025. According to Jabil’s 2021 Digital Healthcare Technology Trends survey, a fifth of healthcare manufacturers are developing or planning in-body devices.

Download the full Digital Health Technology Trends Report 

Jabil has an extraordinary optics team. Their work and collective expertise finds its way into almost every industry we serve — smartphones, laptops, transportation and navigations systems. And of course, in healthcare.  

Besides self-guiding catheters, and other minimally invasive medical devices, we find optics and sensor technology driving advanced capabilities in the robotics surgery (RAS) domain. Accommodating the extremely small dimensions required of these healthcare technology enhancements provides a tailor-made opportunity for pan-Jabil collaboration to shine. 

Jabil’s sophisticated active alignment process and advanced electronics assembly ensures the highest optical performance possible, which means that our customers can keep moving forward, redefining new boundaries for our increasingly intelligent, mobile and connected world. 

MedTech Innovator 

For many promising new technology and applications in healthcare there’s often a critical moment, an inflection of opportunity, that shifts the trajectory from failure to success. Industry-transforming innovation isn't something that just descends out of thin air. It requires an ecosystem of encouragement and an infrastructure for accelerating the winning ideas to the top of the stack. 

Over the last few years, Jabil has built a dynamic relationship with the largest and most prominent accelerator in the healthcare sector. MedTech Innovator is an annual gathering featuring the industry’s most transformative device, diagnostic and digital health technologies from around the globe. 

The program essentially leverages the collective market savvy from leaders across all sectors of the business to facilitate knowledge transfer, best practice sharing, as well as anything else that can help accelerate a promising companies’ development and provide a springboard forward. 

For us at Jabil, our participation with MedTech Innovator’s program has proven to be a great opportunity for gaining valuable insights on how private equity firms, OEM partners, payers and providers are evaluating innovation in healthcare and for us to identify up-and-coming potential players. 

The companies showcased through MedTech Innovator are at their most critical stage for strategy and planning. The goal is to establish a relationship with them early on, demonstrate Jabil’s capabilities in Design for Manufacturability (DfM) and lay a path for a fulfilling synergistic partnership. 

We couldn’t be more excited about our participation in this invaluable program improving the conversation between patients — healthcare customers — and the people developing the products and services that will meet those customer’s needs. MedTech Innovator doesn’t just facilitate the conversation; it provides a holistic process for identifying the most promising of these conversations and fast-tracking the dialogue to, “So how do we get this done?”  

Jabil loves being at the edge of a challenge with an opportunity to push back on all that stands in between imagination and an exciting innovative new product rolling down the assembly line. We’re all working to design, engineer and build life-changing solutions that help people live healthier, happier lives with greater ease and independence. 

We make anything possible. And everything better.  

So… one last question: 

What can we do for you?

Download the 2021 Digital Health Tech Trends Survey Report

Insights from over 200 digital health decision-makers on the barriers, opportunities and the future of digital health.