Another year, another 400 to 500 new posts here on Health Tech Insider. In this first of two parts looking back on 2016, I want to highlight some of the stories that you, the readers, found to be most interesting. To come up with these, I used a very simple — and flawed — metric. I looked to see which stories had the most views in 2016. One obvious problem with this is that posts from earlier in the year had more time to get views, so the results are skewed towards posts in the first half of the year. (And I ignored the popularity of posts from 2015 or earlier.) Also, this result can be distorted by social media searchers; if we happened to have an article that happened to hit some keywords that were of interest, that post might get an inflated number of views. But putting those shortcomings aside, what did you and your fellow readers find to be most interesting here in 2016?
The most popular Health Tech Insider article was decidedly low-tech (as many of our posts can be): “Xkelet 3D Printed Casts“. This story covered the development of 3D-printed casts for broken bones. In addition to be lightweight with much better ventilation than plaster or fiberglass casts, they have the advantage of being custom-printed for each patient in order to get a perfect fit. The system includes a 3D-scanner, and the two-part cast is held together using simple rubber o-rings. This particular product is produced in a factory, with delivery to the physician within five days, but it’s easy to envision a situation where hospitals and other clinics could have their own in-house 3D printing service that can produce a cast in hours.
Another popular article was “Wrist Band Aims to Reduce Anxiety for Autistic Patients“. This was one of many stories this year about wearable devices that are designed to address the specific needs of patients with a particular chronic condition. In this case, the device is a wristband that measures anxiety levels, signal the wearer about the need to take action, and can even alert family members or caregivers if intervention might be required. The device can also be worn on the ankle, and still provide discreet monitoring of physiological measures.
Readers were also interested in NuEyes, which represents a step up in the technological sophistication over the previous two stories. Intended to help individuals with macular degeneration and other vision impairments, these glasses include a high-definition camera. The system then projects the image on the inside of the glasses frames. The user is able to magnify the view from 1x to 14x, and the system also includes text-to-speech as well as Bluetooth and WiFi support for hearing aids and headsets.
If there’s one story to pick out from 2016 as being a hit with a bullet, it would have to be the December 21, 2016 article, “Wireless Earbuds Aid Hearing“. The article covered Nuheara’s IQbuds that are “truly wireless” with no wires connecting the earbuds to each other or any other device. A smartphone app lets the user make adjustments for different settings and then save those settings for recall in the future. This should allow users to reduce ambient noise while still being able to hear people converse with them. This is just one of many new products in the “hearables” category that we expect to see in 2017, and I’ll explain why in my next post, which covers some of the major themes of wearables in 2016.