Medical technology explained very simply: Medical technology is an engineering discipline. Medical technology develops and manufactures products, devices, and procedures for the prevention, diagnosis, and therapy of diseases. It is a highly regulated, but also steadily growing industry. Medical technology provides the link between medicine and the engineering sciences. Advances in diagnostics and therapy are largely based on technical innovations. For non-invasive diagnostics and monitoring systems, for example, control technology, sensor technology, and data processing play a major role. The implementation of innovative ideas in powerful, practical, and cost-effective applications therefore increasingly requires interdisciplinary knowledge that combines engineering and scientific know-how.
Special features in medical technology
Demographic change is increasing the demand for healthcare services. On the other hand, technology is developing at a rapid pace – diseases can be detected more quickly and treated with ever better methods than was possible just a few years ago. Since innovations in the field of medical care are generated by the development and market launch of new medical technology products, medical technology represents a steadily growing market that requires skilled personnel with a technical background as well as solid medical knowledge. However, according to the German Medical Technology Association, companies lack technologically skilled professionals. The demographic change increased health awareness and medical-technical progress point to strong long-term growth rates and great employment potential in medical technology. Many new ideas are generated each year by the small companies or start-ups that emerge from university spin-offs or research projects. Compared to other industries, medical technology has been ranked number one in patent applications for years.
How are innovative medical products created?
The industry generates more than half of its sales with products that are no more than three years old. It is new, innovative medical products that promise the most sales – in contrast to imitations of existing products. To generate innovations, medical technology companies often work closely with research institutions such as the industry-oriented Fraunhofer societies. Ideally, research projects are even funded. EU-funded projects are one possibility here.
What counts as medical devices?
Medical devices include, for example, medical software, laboratory diagnostics, implants, products for injection, infusion, transfusion, and dialysis, human medical instruments, medical software, catheters, pacemakers, dental products, dressing materials, visual aids, X-ray equipment, and medical instruments. Medical devices are also products that contain or are coated with a substance or preparations of substances that, when used separately, are considered to be medicinal products or components of a medicinal product (including plasma derivatives) and can exert an effect on the human body in addition to the functions of the product. The legal definition of medical devices is contained in the Medical Devices Act.
Careers in medical technology
The broad spectrum of medical technology relies on numerous key technologies. These include microsystems technology, nanotechnology, optical technologies, and information and communication technology applications. The range of careers that engineers in medical technology can enter is correspondingly wide. Graduates in medical technology work primarily in the medical technology industry, but also hospitals and research institutes. They develop medical devices, work as computer scientists in hospitals, advise medical technology companies, or are active in science and research. The prospects for the future are good. After all, medical technology is an innovative field that will continue to develop rapidly in the coming decades due to demographic change alone.
Future and challenges of medical technology
A German medical technology company invests an average of about 10% of its sales in the research and development of new technologies. That is more than twice as much as an average industrial company invests. And it shows: The industry has a future. This is confirmed by the German Medical Technology Association. However, it also points out the problems. Regulatory requirements, in particular, pose major challenges for companies. The association calls for a faster approach to benefit assessment. The U.S. regulatory authority has already accelerated the processes – Germany should therefore not allow itself to be left behind, according to one of the association’s demands. One of the greatest challenges facing medical technology in the coming decades will be to enable people to live independently into old age. Especially against the background of the shortage of skilled nursing staff. New medical technology devices can ensure that people will be able to cope and be cared for better in old age and with chronic illnesses in the future than is still the case today.