Devices and diagnostics

Advances in medical devices, diagnostic testing and imaging are expected to continue apace enabling more care to be delivered closer to home. Intelligent devices and enhanced diagnostics could radically alter the way conditions are detected and treated, improving clinical outcomes and quality of life for the whole population.

Delivering care in the future

The use of computer-aided diagnosis could extend to conditions such as osteoporosis and Alzheimer's (1,2), while rapid compressed magnetic resonance scanning, miniature high-resolution ultrasounds, chromatography and mass spectroscopy are expected to enter general use (3,4).

Non-invasive tests identifying conditions through chemical signatures in the breath of patients and blood tests for biomarkers are being developed (5,6,7,8). Precision treatments for cancer are expected to become widespread as evidence on their effectiveness emerges (9,10).

Enabling services to be delivered locally and at lower cost using small, cheap devices, such as ECG monitors, is part of a move to 'frugal technologies'. Despite set-up costs, delivering care in this way in the community or people's homes could release resources from secondary care.

Robotic dispensing, electronic prescribing tools, implantable wireless microchips delivering daily medication and intelligent pills that are able to monitor drug use could all reduce medication errors (11,12,13).

Next page: Assistive technologies >


  1. Doi K (2007). Article journal. ‘Computer-aided diagnosis in medical imaging: historical review, current status and future potential’. Computerized Medical Imaging and Graphics, vol 31, pp 198–211.
  2. Doraiswamy PM, Sperling RA, Coleman RE, Johnson KA, Reiman EM, Davis MD, Grundman M, Sabbagh MN, Sadowsky CH, Fleisher AS, Carpenter A, Clark CM, Joshi AD, Mintun MA, Skovronsky DM, Pontecorvo MJ (2012). Article. ‘Amyloid-β  assessed by florbetapir F 18 PET and 18-month cognitive decline: a multicenter study’. Neurology, July 2011.
  3. Shiraishi J, Li Q, Appelbaum D, Doi K (2011). Journal article. ‘Computer-aided diagnosis and artificial intelligence in clinical imaging’. Seminars in Nuclear Medicine, vol 41, no 6, pp 449–62.
  4. Science Now (2012). Article. ScienceShot: Medical Imaging, In A Snap 
  5. Phillips M, Cataneo RN, Saunders C, Hope P, Schmitt P, Wai J (2010). Journal article. ‘Volatile biomarkers in the breath of women with breast cancer’. Journal of Breath Research, vol 4, no 2, 026003.
  6. Mazzone PJ, Wang X-F, Xu Y, Mekhail T, Beukemann MC, Na J, Kemling JW, Suslick KS, Sasidhar M (2012). Journal article. ‘Exhaled breath analysis with a colorimetric sensor array for the identification and characterization of lung cancer’. Journal of Thoracic Oncology, vol 7, no 1, pp 137–42.
  7. Study details. Non-Invasive Biomarkers For Early Detection Of Lung Cancers 
  8. Bossuyt PMM (2011). The Thin Line Between Hope and Hype in Biomarker Research JAMA. 305(21):2229-2230.
  9. Ahmed HU, Hindley RG, Dickinson L, Freeman A, Kirkham AP, Sahu M, Scott R, Allen C, Van der Meulen J, Emberton Ml (2012). Journal article. ‘Focal therapy for localised unifocal and multifocal prostate cancer: a prospective development study’. Lancet Oncology, vol 13, no 6, pp 622–32.
  10. Dieterich S, Gibbs IC (2011). Journal article. ‘The CyberKnife in clinical use: current roles, future expectations’. Frontiers of Radiation Therapy and Oncology, vol 43, pp 181–94.
  11. Manias E (2011). Journal article. Use of Electronic Medication Management Systems to Facilitate Appropriate and Safe Use of Medications. iHealth Connections, 2011;1(2):134–8.
  12. Cressey D. News. Say hello to intelligent pills: Digital system tracks patients from the inside out. Nature News. 17 January 2012.
  13. Farra R, Sheppard NF Jr, McCabe L, Neer RM, Anderson JM, Santini JT Jr, Cima MJ, Langer R (2012). First-in-human testing of a wirelessly controlled drug delivery microchip. Science Translational Medicine, vol 4, no 122, 122ra21.