When industries innovate, those industries thrive.
In Part One of this two-part series, we looked at the latest aerospace powered HealthTech innovations. In part two, we unpack military technological advances that are improving the quality and scope of healthcare that the average citizen can access.
The goal of military-MedTech partnerships is simple: to produce innovative products that can save lives both in and out of combat.
In 2019, jHUB—the brainchild of the UK’s Ministry of Defence Strategic Command—began the TXA Autoinjector Project, a collaboration between military physicians and scientists aimed at stopping rapid blood loss in combat. An autoinjector pen is filled with tranexamic acid, a low-cost drug that stabilizes and strengthens blood clotting in damaged tissues. Similar to an EpiPen, the TXA autoinjector doesn’t require specialized training, so soldiers can self-treat or be treated right in the field.
The technology is also promising for civilians: in addition to its military applications, supplying first responders, NGOs, and other frontline workers with access to the autoinjector can limit casualties associated with any number of major traumas, from which more than 5 million people die yearly. The TXA Autoinjector is also applicable in labor and delivery settings, where women routinely lose between one-half and one full quart of blood during nontraumatic births; another 14 million women experience postpartum hemorrhage, the leading cause of global maternal mortality.
Molecular’s MilSpec Multi-Purpose Oxygen Generator (MPOG) was also borne out of military need: a UK Ministry of Defense contract to supply oxygen generators for military settings. The MilSpec MPOG generates 2,600 liters of breathable oxygen, critical for settings like submarines. On a smaller scale, the Rugged Oxygen Generator—ROG—is a backpack-sized portable oxygen generator that delivers 90 liters of breathable oxygen—enough air for 15 minutes.
A modified MPOG or ROG, fine-tuned for civilian use, could be broadly applicable within the healthcare industry. More obvious uses include providing at-home oxygen access for patients with respiratory failure due to diseases like COPD, pulmonary fibrosis, or cystic fibrosis. Today, oxygen access for most patients is through bulky gas cylinders delivered to the home and transported on a wheeled cart. The longevity of this solution is limited, though, with patients requiring the delivery of new cylinders on a weekly or bi-weekly basis depending on oxygenation needs. Patients might also opt for an oxygen concentrator, which draws in room air and filters out nitrogen. Although smaller and more portable options are available, the devices can still be bulky. Larger, stationary oxygen concentrators provide higher oxygen levels but tether the patient to the machine via plastic cannula tubing. Retooling the MPOG or ROG to provide oxygen for these patients might one day upend the way oxygen therapy is delivered.
In the surgical realm, the MPOG and ROG could be used to provide oxygen support to surgeons operating in low- and middle-income countries around the world. Currently, these areas are experiencing a “scarcity of surgical services,” with only 6% of surgical procedures being performed in developing nations and surgically treatable diseases representing a “major component of global morbidity and mortality” in less-developed nations.
Creating a streamlined oxygen solution can aid surgeons performing in these underserved areas, solving just one of the many problems—including a lack of supplies, lack of diagnostic tools, logistics challenges, and obsolete infrastructure—that physicians in these areas face.
Civilians know HealthTech wearables as the watches, rings, and sensors that monitor our heart rates, sleep cycles, and blood pressure. However, military innovators are taking the concept of wearables one step further, working to develop a wearable fabric that can detect battlefield injuries. Once detected, command leaders can deploy medics and provide treatment, reducing delays in treatment that service members on the battlefield might face.
In a healthcare setting, these smart fabric wearables could be provided to patients who are particularly at risk of injury: for example, the elderly living alone or those who work in physically demanding, dangerous jobs. Data from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries found that logging is the most dangerous job in the country, with more than 111 fatal injuries per 100,000 workers. Partially, this danger is due to the heavy machinery the job requires; the other part is due to its isolation: loggers spend their workdays in isolated, heavily forested areas where healthcare may not be immediately available. Providing workers in this sector—and other sectors like oil, gas, mining, ironworking, and farming that have been identified as highly dangerous—with smart fabrics could eliminate delays and provide timely healthcare when necessary.
We live in a time where technology applications are endless—an era that futurists could only dream of in the last century. Yet, to many, NASA and the military can feel like foreign concepts. Barring personal connections—like having an aerospace engineer or servicemember in the family—the average person might not be aware of the innovative thinking driving these industries towards progress. But progress is exactly what these industries are about, and both NASA and the military have their own technological problems to solve.
Combining this forward-thinking problem solving with the healthcare industry—a space rife with its own technical innovators who are developing everything from robotic surgical suites to databases that will detect chronic diseases before they even take hold—increases the likelihood of a groundbreaking technology improving the scope and quality of healthcare for the general public for years to come.
Did we miss any major industry-MedTech partnerships? Connect with us, and let’s discuss the future of these innovation catalysts.
About the Author
Kayleen is the original MedTech Millennial, a #medtech business strategist, and #HealthTech journalist with 15 years in medical device intelligence and research.
Currently, she is serving as Executive Editor & Vice President of TMG360 Media, a digital platform created to drive brand awareness, patient recruitment, strategic partnerships, and funding access in the healthtech industry. In tandem, she is proud to have been chosen by Newsweek to represent the medical device community as its HealthTech Expert; and sits on the steering committee for ScaleHealth’s ScaleOC, a global innovation ecosystem for the health and wellness industry. Kayleen is known for interviewing the top medtech executives and innovators, moderating panels at medical technology conferences, and leading commercial strategy roundtables and programs.