What is Medical Technology?
Medical Technology includes a vastly wide range, from a simple toothbrush or a sticking plaster to high-tech devices such as MRI or robotic surgery. (And by all means, even a sticking plaster can be somewhat high-tech.) But what does the term “medical technology” really mean?
Medical technology is defined slightly differently depending on who you ask: individual persons, companies and institutions — sure, but it also depends on in which language you ask the question. In the absence of a uniform definition, we have gone through some different sources. It is educative to see how different language areas differ, since it can both complement and broaden your own perception.
Here are some attempts at definitions that can help or inspire you to find where your product belongs.
1. MedTech Europe
MedTech Europe is the European trade association representing the medical technology industries, “from diagnosis to cure”.
What is medical technology?
Medical technology is any technology used to save lives or transform the health of individuals suffering from a wide range of conditions. In its many forms, medical technology is already diagnosing, monitoring and treating virtually every disease or condition that affects us. For the sake of this document, medical technology includes medical devices and in vitro diagnostic medical devices.
Medical devices are products intended to perform a therapeutic or diagnostic action on human beings by physical means.
In vitro diagnostic medical devices are products which provide medically useful diagnostic information by examination of a specimen derived from the human body.
2. WHO – World Health Organization
WHO lists three definitions under the main heading Medical devices:
The application of organized knowledge and skills in the form of devices, medicines, vaccines, procedures and systems developed to solve a health problem and improve quality of life.
Medical device means any instrument, apparatus, implement, machine, appliance, implant, reagent for in vitro use, software, material or other similar or related article, intended by the manufacturer to be used, alone or in combination, for human beings, for one or more of the specific medical purpose(s) of:
- diagnosis, prevention, monitoring, treatment or alleviation of disease,
- diagnosis, monitoring, treatment, alleviation of or compensation for an injury,
- investigation, replacement, modification, or support of the anatomy or of a physiological process,
- supporting or sustaining life,
- control of conception,
- disinfection of medical devices
- providing information by means of in vitro examination of specimens derived from the human body, and does not achieve its primary intended action by pharmacological, immunological or metabolic means, in or on the human body, but which may be assisted in its intended function by such means.
Note! Products which may be considered to be medical devices in some jurisdictions but not in others include:
- disinfection substances,
- aids for persons with disabilities,
- devices incorporating animal and/or human tissues,
- devices for in-vitro fertilization or assisted reproduction technologies
Medical devices requiring calibration, maintenance, repair, user training and decommissioning – activities usually managed by clinical engineers. Medical equipment is used for the specific purposes of diagnosis and treatment of disease or rehabilitation following disease or injury; it can be used either alone or in combination with any accessory, consumable or other piece of medical equipment. Medical equipment excludes implantable, disposable or single-use medical devices.
3. German Wikipedia
German Wikipedia explains the term this way:
Medical technology, also called ‘biomedical engineering’, is the application of engineering principles and rules in the field of medicine. It combines technical knowledge, especially solving problems and development, with the medical expertise of physicians, nurses and other professionals to improve the diagnosis, therapy, nursing, rehabilitation and quality of life of sick or healthy individuals.
4. English Wikipedia – Health Technology in the US
English Wikipedia writes like this about medical technology in their article about Health Technology in the US:
Medical technology, or “medtech”, encompasses a wide range of healthcare products and is used to treat diseases and medical conditions affecting humans. Such technologies are intended to improve the quality of healthcare delivered through earlier diagnosis, less invasive treatment options and reduction in hospital stays and rehabilitation times. Recent advances in medical technology have also focused on cost reduction. Medical technology may broadly include medical devices, information technology, biotech, and healthcare services.
The impacts of medical technology involve social and ethical issues. For example, physicians can seek objective information from technology rather than read subjective patient reports.
A major driver of the sector’s growth is the consumerization of medtech. Supported by the widespread availability of smartphones and tablets, providers are able to reach a large audience at low cost, a trend that stands to be consolidated as wearable technologies spread throughout the market.
5. Expanded definitions concerning medical technology and its development
Medical technology is not an isolated area, which the name already suggests. Medicine and technology are each enormously large areas with many specializations. The synergies lie in combining the knowledge areas, which is why in the US the concept of biomedical engineering, about biomedical technology, is now used.
In Sweden, the need has also been realized and one can now take a master’s degree in biomedical engineering (BE) at Chalmers or in Linköping.
Chalmers’ definition of Biomedical Engineering:
With a growing need for improvement in the quality of life, and global average life expectancy rapidly rising, there is an increasing demand for efficient health care systems. Combining the design and problem-solving skills of engineering with medical and biological science, biomedical engineering improves health care delivery and medical practice by closing the gap between engineering and medicine. Together with advancements within IT, a new world of possibilities in how health care can be improved and delivered is evolving.
Biomedical engineering according to Wikipedia in English:
Biomedical engineering (BME), also known as bioengineering, is the application of engineering principles and design concepts to medicine and biology for healthcare purposes (e.g. diagnostic or therapeutic). This field seeks to close the gap between engineering and medicine, combining the design and problem solving skills of engineering with medical biological sciences to advance health care treatment, including diagnosis, monitoring, and therapy.
Biomedical engineering has recently emerged as its own study, as compared to many other engineering fields. Such an evolution is common as a new field transitions from being an interdisciplinary specialization among already-established fields, to being considered a field in itself. Much of the work in biomedical engineering consists of research and development, spanning a broad array of subfields (see below). Prominent biomedical engineering applications include the development of biocompatible prostheses, various diagnostic and therapeutic medical devices ranging from clinical equipment to micro-implants, common imaging equipment such as MRIs and EKG/ECGs, regenerative tissue growth, pharmaceutical drugs and therapeutic biologicals.