A Top Ten list worth your attention

Nov. 21, 2017

“Tis the season for “Top Ten” or “Ten Most…” lists. You know the drill. “The 10 Best Movies That Had Actual Human Actors in Them,” or “The Ten Most Overused New Expressions Besides ‘Fake News’,” or “The Ten Most Interesting Sports Stories of the Year That Didn’t Have the Word ‘LeBron’ in Them.” (My local sports talk radio station has pretty much adopted a format of “All LeBron, All the Time,” and I don’t even live in Cleveland, where LeBron James plays.) I guess you can tell I don’t think much of most “Top Ten” lists.

But, speaking of Cleveland, there’s one such list that I read with interest every year, and as I write this, it has just been released: Cleveland Clinic’s “Top 10 Medical Innovations for 2018.” Yes, that’s 2018; the Cleveland Clinic list is not retrospective, looking back at 2017, but predictive: The Clinic’s experts compile a list of the advancements that they think will make big news in the coming year.

Some of them have direct clinical lab relevance, some don’t, but I thought I’d round out my editorial year by sharing them with readers of MLO. You can find a more complete version of the list, with videos, at https://newsroom.clevelandclinic.org/2017/10/25/cleveland-clinic-unveils-top-10-medical-innovations-for-2018/.

Hybrid Closed-Loop Insulin Delivery System. Approved by the FDA in 2016, this new technology enables direct communication between the continuous glucose monitoring device and insulin pump to stabilize blood glucose at an unprecedented level.

Neuromodulation to Treat Obstructive Sleep Apnea. Controlled by a remote or wearable patch, the technology acts like a pacemaker, helping to synchronize the intake of air with the action of the tongue using a breathing sensor and a stimulation lead powered by a small battery.

Gene Therapy for Inherited Retinal Diseases. The ability to deliver a new gene to targeted cells in the body via viral “vectors” is expected to provide visual function improvements in some patients.

The Unprecedented Reduction of LDL Cholesterol. New studies reported a 20 percent reduction in the risk of cardiovascular death, myocardial infarction, or stroke for patients who took statins combined with a new class of cholesterol-lowering drugs (PCSK9 inhibitors) to reach ultra-low LDL levels.

The Emergence of Distance Health. Due to an increase in connectivity through mobile technology and consumer demand, hospitals are getting ready for widespread adoption in 2018. Ninety percent of healthcare executives reported they have built or are currently building a telehealth program.

Next Generation Vaccine Platforms. Innovators will be upgrading the entire vaccine infrastructure to support the rapid development of new vaccines, as well as breaking ground on novel mechanisms to deliver new and existing vaccines to vast populations.

Arsenal of Targeted Breast Cancer Therapies. A variety of new targeted treatments, such as PARP inhibitors for patients with specific mutations in BRCA1 or BRCA2 and novel CD K 4/6 inhibitors for ER-Positive/HER-2-negative breast cancer, are having positive outcomes in clinical trials.

Enhanced Recovery After Surgery. Recent research indicates that an ERAS (Enhanced Recovery After Surgery) protocol that permits patients to eat before surgery, limits opioids by prescribing alternate medications, and encourages regular walking reduces complication rates and speeds recovery.

Centralized Monitoring of Hospital Patients. Centralized monitoring has emerged as part of a “mission control” operation in which off-site personnel use advanced equipment, including sensors and high-definition cameras, to monitor blood pressure, heart rate, respiration, pulse oximetry and more.

Scalp Cooling for Reducing Chemotherapy Hair Loss. The practice of “scalp cooling” —which works by reducing the temperature of the scalp a few degrees immediately before, during, and after chemotherapy—has been shown to be highly effective for preserving hair in women receiving chemotherapy for early-stage breast cancer. It was approved by the FDA in May 2017.

Changes are coming to healthcare, and the clinical lab will be part of them. The industry will need to develop and operationalize systems for adoption and tracking of those changes—in 2018 and beyond.