In 2016 alone, individual health-care spending grew 4.3 percent nationally, hitting more than $10,000 per person, according to information provided by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. At the same time, gaps in health-care services leave many Americans still needing more — or better — care.
With this current focus on health care and a system that seems to be straining on many levels, all eyes are turned to the “next best thing” that has the power to transform medicine as we know it. Whether it’s a product or a process that makes recovery or prevention faster, cheaper, or simply more effective, the need for change is imminent, and expected.
Enter: South Carolina. The Palmetto State has built an infrastructure on medical research and development, and thus created a culture of innovation that is changing the future of medical care, medical practice, and outcomes as we know it. As an example, here are six local companies whose technology is changing tomorrow’s health care, today.
3-D Cancer Cell Model
It’s no secret that cancer is one of the most focused on illnesses today; around 38 percent of men and women will be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetime. But soon, cancer patients at Greenville Health System will have access to a new diagnostic tool provided in partnership with Greenville-based KIYATEC. This test, which examines cancer cells in minute detail through a three-dimensional culture, accurately predicts how those cells will respond when facing different biologic or physiologic interactions. Thus, it can predict with up to 93 percent accuracy how a patient will respond to chemotherapy, essentially eliminating the risks associated with spending time on a treatment that may or may not work for the patient. It aligns perfectly with KIYATEC’s own mission: to “to accurately predict patient specific response to cancer drugs using their living tumor cells in 3-D culture, and to use those predictions to improve patient outcomes, reduce health-care costs, and increase success in drug development and clinical trials.” KIYATEC is housed within Greenville Health System’s Health Sciences Center, where the Institute for Translational Oncology Research is a component.
Medical Beam Technologies
Targeted Gamma Radiation
In cancer research, Medical Beam Technologies recently won an InnoVision Award, a recognition for the advancement of technology in South Carolina, for its creation of a device that uses gamma radiation to destroy cancerous tumors in both people and pets. Born out of research from Clemson University, the device, created by Donald Medlin in collaboration with Endre Takacs and Mark Leising of Clemson’s astronomy department, uses an image guidance system in conjunction with highly focused beams of radiation to ensure that the only target is the tumor itself.
Medical Waste Disposal
Within an increasingly active health-care industry, there is also an increase in suppliers and vendors serving the health-care industry. On the other end, there is an increasing amount of waste generated by the system as a whole.
It’s estimated that health-care facilities can generate up to 25 pounds of waste per patient, per day — an extraordinary amount of waste that must be disposed of properly. Typically, a smaller portion of that is biomedical waste, or “red-bag waste,” which includes everything from used syringes to infectious liquids, most of which is typically incinerated or hauled away, creating potential environmental risks in its handling. But through a patented product that uses both high temperature and high pressure, SterAssure’s equipment can take the most hazardous red-bag waste and convert it into normal waste that can be disposed of in a landfill. Thus, SterAssure’s conversion equipment is not only a “greener” way to address medical waste but also it ends up being cheaper and faster than other methods.
Foley Garde Catheter
When it comes to getting sick in the hospital, it’s a fear we all may have. One of the most common infections acquired in the hospital — so common that it accounts for 40 percent of all such infections — is the catheter-induced urinary tract infection, which is also responsible for 13,000 deaths in America alone each year.
Through a new wireless technology, however, Patrona Medical’s Foley Garde catheter can prevent those infections by detecting a UTI in its early stages. Also available as a nonwireless option, the Foley Garde monitors urine in a patient, and, as it interacts with a filter embedded in the catheter, can detect nitrites and leukocytes — which note the presence of a possible UTI. Through the data compiled by the catheter, alerts are then sent to healthcare staff for immediate treatment.
What started off as research from Delphine Dean at Clemson University on the affordability of diabetes testing strips has grown into the newest product for pets who suffer from the disease. Accessible Diagnostics began with a focus on creating a low-cost blood glucose system, and although its focus is still on glucose, it has created a unique way to address testing for animals.
Called Vet-Tab, the product prevents the painful need to stick your pet for a blood drop to read (usually in some inconvenient place like an upper lip or muzzle), instead offering a saliva swab that interacts with a smartphone app — creating a simple way for pet owners to monitor their pets’ health.
The swab, once inserted into a provided enzyme solution, will change color. Snap a picture of the then-colored swab, and your phone (through the Vet-Tab app) will give you a corresponding glucose level.
While further work has to be done to provide the same benefit for people (it’s easier to regulate a dog’s glucose for a shorter term than human glucose in a much longer life span), that is a focus of the company moving forward, including other smartphone- centered saliva and blood tests. According to CEO John Warner, the glucose testing system will be forwarded for regulatory approval in the first quarter of 2018 — around the same time that Vet-Tab will hit the consumer market.
Recovr Rehabilitation System
When it comes to physical rehabilitation after having a stroke, the daily exercise required can be tedious. It might be a simple movement of a hand or arm a few inches at a time, but the repetitive nature of the exercise is what really makes a difference. Unfortunately, that repetition also makes the therapy progressively boring — and the real risk is when a patient stops physical therapy because of disinterest. Consequently, only 10 percent of stroke victims will recover completely, according to the National Stroke Association.
Recovr Inc., now operating out of Greenville, is addressing that issue — all through a video game. The tool, which originated at the Medical University of South Carolina, has been cleared by the FDA and addresses neuroplasticity, where stroke victims can repair the neurons in their brains through repetitive exercise. In practice, physical therapists can customize the game for their own patients’ needs. The patient stands in front of a large monitor equipped with a motion-detecting camera, simply following the motions dictated by the game, and earning points along the way. By simply keeping patients engaged in their rehabilitation, therapy can become more effective, and more stroke victims can see full recovery.