• Applications

Growing Population & Healthcare Spending

The worldwide healthcare market is influenced by a number of demographic trends, including the following:

  • Growing and Aging Population: The U.S. Census Bureau predicts that the majority of the U.S. “baby boom” population (28% of the total U.S. population) will begin to turn 65 between 2010 and 2020
  • Consumer expectations for improved healthcare are increasing in both developed and developing countries
  • Reimbursement and coverage of medical expenses by insurances companies and employers are on the decline—customers/patients have to contribute more money
  • Technology is giving rise to new clinical therapies, which in turn are addressing more and more medical ailments and aiding in earlier diagnosis and prevention of diseases

As shown in Figure 1, healthcare spending per capita has gown significantly across the world. In the U.S., it has increased from $144 per capita in 1960 to almost $4,400 by 1999. The U.S. per capita spending is projected to grow to $7,500 by 2008. Equipment suppliers understand that in order to be successful in the medical market they have to be focused and successful in the U.S.

Figure 1. Growing World-Wide Healthcare Spending Per Capita

Technology Fuels Healthcare Productivity

In the next 10 years, the healthcare market will focus on early diagnosis, digitized patient information that can be accessed from numerous locations, and “total solution” selling that contributes to healthcare productivity gains.

Early diagnosis and prevention is enabled by emerging diagnostic technologies. For example, positron emission tomography (PET) is used to detect many kinds of cancer with great accuracy.

A “paperless” hospital is another emerging trend. Digital patient records enable doctors to access patients’ records—wherever the doctor is. In a digitized hospital, healthcare providers do not have to wait days for an x-ray to “come back from the lab” because the x-ray machine is digital and the image is instantly available.

Hospitals are also moving away from purchasing point solutions and toward buying equipment from different vendors that is interoperable and that has a uniform user interface. Hospitals are developing internal networks that connect all diagnostic equipment that feeds all patient information (e.g., computed tomography (CT) scans, x-rays, positron emission tomography (PET) scans) over a network to data storage servers for instant access. This drives medical equipment vendors to develop interoperable equipment that has a uniform user interface. In effect, vendors are beginning to sell complete solutions that include not only the diagnostic equipment but also the data storage servers as well as the interface software.

All these trends lead to an increase in healthcare productivity—this means more patients can be put through the healthcare system by using better, faster diagnostic equipment, which leads to early ailment diagnosis and treatment. When the paperless hospital becomes a reality, productivity is further enhanced because of instant patient test results and records access.

Programmable Logic Advantage

Majority of medical products have some type of semiconductor in it. In fact, the semiconductor content continues to increase in these myriad of products. Programmable Logic Devices (PLDs) continue to see a much higher rate of adoption than other semiconductor types. PLDs offer a viable and powerful alternative to both ASICs and ASSPs in medical equipment development. PLDs eliminate the up-front non-recurring engineering (NRE) costs and minimum order quantities associated with ASICs, and the costly risks of multiple silicon iterations through the capability to be reprogrammed as needed during the design process. When compared to ASSPs, PLDs provide the design flexibility and board integration opportunities to differentiate against competing medical equipment manufacturers. Additionally, PLDs can be upgraded in the field as standards evolve or requirements change. Also, the ability to re-use a common hardware platform allows designers to create differentiated systems which support a variety of feature sets with one basic design, resulting in reduced manufacturing costs. Whether designing a CT machine or patient monitoring equipment, programmable logic is a flexible, low-risk path to successful system design—offering optimum cost efficiencies while providing value-added differentiating capabilities versus other medical equipment manufacturers.

Last but not the least, PLDs have a very long life cycle and protect customers against product obsolescence, which is very critical in the medical industry because of long product cycles.

Medical Applications for Programmable Logic

By using programmable logic, engineers can cost-effectively develop leading-edge equipment for many applications in the medical space, including:

The Altera Advantage

Altera gives medical electronics equipment manufacturers a competitive edge. Altera’s solutions are currently found in various medical end-applications worldwide; they combine a wide range of PLDs with optimized intellectual property (IP) cores, hard and soft microprocessors, powerful design software, and a variety of development kits to create a complete, easy-to-use design platform. Altera’s PLDs, including the Stratix® family, Stratix GX, and Cyclone™ II FPGA families, which include a rich feature set of logic, memory, dedicated digital signal processing (DSP) blocks, and I/O standard support, which give medical equipment designers all the tools they need to win in this highly competitive market.

Altera® PLDs offer medical electronics equipment manufacturers a flexible, cost-effective, obsolescence-free path to successful system design. Some of the opportunities that Altera offers manufacturers are:

  • Cost reduction by avoiding ASICs’ extensive NREs and minimum ordering costs
  • Time-to-market advantage by avoiding the lengthy and risky ASIC development cycle
  • Cost reduction and differentiation by integrating multiple ASSP functions into FPGAs
  • Reprogrammability during the design process and after equipment is in the field
  • Reusability of one hardware platform for various systems with one basic design
  • Adaptability to multiple industry standards and protocols

Intellectual Property

Off-the-shelf IP cores that have been optimized for Altera’s products can reduce engineering costs and shorten time-to-market. Standard interfaces and IP cores are available from Altera or approved Altera Megafunction Partners Program (AMPPSM) partners. Prior to licensing, the OpenCore® evaluation feature allows users to evaluate Altera MegaCore® functions and AMPP megafunctions at no cost.

Altera designs, supports, and sells Altera MegaCore functions. All MegaCore functions have been rigorously tested and optimized for the highest performance and lowest cost in Altera PLDs.

Development Kits

Altera and its partners offer a variety of development kits to support the development and verification of system-on-a-programmable-chip (SOPC) designs.