As medical procedures improve, we’ll keep finding new ways to deliver treatments further and further into the body.
Engineers must be smart and able to adapt to changes quickly, especially in the medical industry. Medical devices and delivery systems keep getting smaller and more flexible, yet also need to remain durable and inexpensive. This is a challenge that Jeff Kraus, like all of our engineers, loves to solve with innovative thinking and decades of well-honed expertise. Jeff’s degree is in mechanical engineering and he has been working in the medical device industry for 30 years.
Why did you become an engineer?
I have always enjoyed trying to find solutions to mechanical-based problems. Engineering allows me to do this on a daily basis. I started in the electronics field but got tired of the ups and downs of the industry, so I moved to medical. It’s funny because I actually helped found a division at Creganna, then I moved to Advanced Cath and both companies have since been acquired by TE. In general, I enjoy problem-solving around engineering issues. Working in the medical field allows me to know that my efforts will ultimately help people and potentially save lives.
What are some of the biggest trends right now?
Many projects that we work on are for percutaneous heart valve repair and replacement. A tremendous amount of work is focused on enabling more valve replacements to be done through the blood vessels, avoiding larger incisions and opening of the sternum. The focus now is on delivery—getting the valve to where it needs to be—whereas the next shift will be toward miniaturization, especially as the delivered size of valves get smaller. We also see a lot of interest in neurovascular applications where the goal is to reach further into the brain, so the trend is toward making products smaller and more flexible, yet durable at the same time.
What do you see as a future trend in the medical device field?
I continue to see a strong trend toward the use of catheter-based delivery of implantable devices. This includes heart valves, stents, PFO devices and more. I believe this trend of percutaneous-based delivery will keep the use and growth of catheter-based systems strong for several years to come. With heart valves, I see a long-term trend—as valves improve and get smaller, we will keep making delivery systems smaller, and we’re also working on pediatric devices with the same goal of miniaturization. More and more, the trend will be how to make medical devices and delivery systems smaller and more flexible, while also keeping costs down.
How will the Internet of Things (IoT) affect the medical device industry?
The effect is two-fold. With patients, as they become connected to more information and are being educated to these new systems—they find out about them online, read pros and cons, etc.—they inevitably bring more questions to their doctors. There’s much more response required from companies to address issues proactively. On the engineering end, there’s more medical monitoring over the Internet, such as with pacemakers and heart monitors. Patients can download their monitoring results from the site that records it and bring it to their doctors to discuss. Engineers are also looking at ways to recharge pacemakers through the skin and not having to remove the battery to recharge it.
What types of engineering changes do you expect to see over the next five years?
I continue to see more work being put into reducing the size of implantable devices and delivery catheters. As these medical procedures improve, we’ll keep finding new ways to deliver treatments further and further into the body. There’s more pressure from insurance companies and healthcare systems to reduce costs—make devices better but less expensive. Engineers are focusing on designing more electrical devices and combinations that can deliver testing and treatment with the same device—so doctors can go in and find the problem (with a heart or other area) and then fix it with that same device, instead of putting multiple devices in over the course of a procedure.