Question: What trends do you see in the medical market?
Jens Unrath: There are many different trends in the medical market. Looking at the high-end systems we see continuous improvements in image processing for diagnostics and surgery. The time savings due to faster image processing leads to broader use of image-based diagnostics as well as reduced cost per patient. At the same time the image quality is improved from generation to generation. This constant improvement of the processing performance comes either from the higher processing power of the processors themselves or the implementation of graphic cards for ´general-purpose computing on graphics processing units´ (GPGPU) or the use of dedicated FPGA-based designs in smaller systems. A second large trend is based on the ´iPad-Factor´. Users expect from future medical devices a similar easy usage model as from their consumer multi-touch devices. This trend will be seen mainly in patient monitoring devices with direct user interactions and the professional operator interfaces on larger medical appliances.
This trend will also push the demand for mobile medical devices in hospitals using the latest ARM processor implementations in smart mobile devices. This mobility trend will also extend into the growing market for homecare and mobile point of care appliances based on cloud applications.
Figure 1: The Kontron Health eKiosk displays and checks the information stored on the customer’s health insurance card. It can also issue a new health insurance card.
Question: Do you expect that innovation in electronics will help widen these markets?
: Yes, definitely. Cloud computing applications will open space for the medical electronics market. But all depends also on the money national economies can spend for their health care systems. We see the largest potential in applications where innovations in electronic appliances can save cost, but our products are found in applications throughout the medical industry including image-processing, patient monitoring, diagnostics, point of care, therapeutical and surgical systems as well as clinical IT. Our competencies are built around the embedded computing core - the smart binary brain - which we deliver wherever possible as application ready platforms. These platforms include hardware integration services like OS customization and licensing, driver support, customized hardware design, certifications and obsolescence management. One huge and growing market is the home healthcare segment.
Every patient staying at home instead of the hospital with continuous monitoring and communication of his/her health parameters produces by far less cost. The other market can be found in the fields of the patient data creation and handling/sharing. Nurses can save cost if they spend less time with the administrative work on each patient. Thus, we see smart mobile devices like tablets coming to the hospital floors and paper records will be eliminated more and more. A sub-segment in this area of patient-oriented electronics devices is the infotainment at the patient´s bedside.