Biggest Medical Device Trends of the Next 10 Years – Part 1

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Fifteen years practicing patent law, and I’ve seen hundreds of medical device ideas and patents pass through my office.

The nice thing about seeing all of these innovations in the early stages of development is watching how they grow and make a huge impact in the industry. How they ride trends and break ground on new ones.

Seeing as how this is a New Year and a New Decade, I thought I’d take a crack at guessing what the next biggest trends in medical device technology will be over the next few years.

I started by spending a few hours researching the hard numbers on some of the biggest health problems affecting American’s today. Then I took a stab at what I think is to come. Hopefully this will shed a little light to where new inventions will have the biggest impact (and where inventors will find the biggest opportunities).

Keep in mind these are just my best guesses. I may hit the nail on the head or my crystal ball may turn out to be a little fuzzy. Let’s begin with one of the biggest epidemics of the past fifty years.

Medical Device Patents and Obesity

According to CBS News, Americans spend about $35 billion a year on weight loss products.

And that number is sure to grow. The following chart shows the rate of increase of overweight and obese Americans since 1960. If you look closely you’ll see that obesity has risen from about 12% of the population in 1960 to over 30% today!

obesity chart

Meanwhile, overweight individuals have hovered at about 30%.

What this means is that more and more people will be looking for creative solutions to lose weight.

So, where are the opportunities for inventors?

Obviously, products that help people lose weight. There are thousands of patents for different exercise machines and the market is littered with trademarked diet schemes and marketing approaches.

Also, I believe there will be more products that promise to keep the weight off in the first place. For example, at my local grocery store they sell a version of an avocado called a "slim-cado". It has about half the fat of a regular avocado. I’m not sure how they did this, but it sounds like a candidate for a patentable procedure.

And of course there are the drastic procedures like gastric-bypass which uses specialty medical device patented tools that could be improved.

And the market for medical device patents doesn’t stop here. The growing obesity epidemic will create an even greater need for patents in other areas of medicine.

Medical Device Patents and Heart Disease

Heart disease accounts for roughly 616,067 per year, giving it the dubious distinction of being the leading cause of death in the U.S. The surprising thing about this number is that it is just a fraction of how many lives were predicted to be lost to heart disease.

heart disease chart

Why is this?

Maybe it’s greater awareness of the hazards of smoking. Dietary changes. Or more exercise.

I think it’s because of greater funding for treatments and cures. A quick web search will return thousands of charities and donations that host venues to raise money for heart disease.

With that in mind, I believe research and development into medical devices to treat heart disease should be big business for years to come. And then of course there are the patents on the inventions and improvements to surgery devices (think stents for coronary artery blockage).

And don’t forget about post-surgery needs. The average hospital stay after heart surgery is 5-7 days. During this time there are all sorts of tubes, wires and diagnostic equipment involved, all of which can be improved (which I’m sure some smart inventor is working on right now).

In part two of this article we’ll see where the next wave of new medical devices will come from by exploring one of the fastest growing health problems in America…and…the commonly over-abused drug that is quickly losing effectiveness (and is in dire need or replacement).

Sources for this article:

 

CBS News: Diet Industry is Big Business
CDC: Prevalance of Obesity
CDC: Leading Causes of Death Stats

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