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Medicine Input Devices Wii Games

Wii Balance Board Gives $18,000 Medical Device a Run For Its Money 422

Posted by timothy
from the hat-tip-to-tim-o-reilly dept.
Gizmodo highlights a very cool repurposing effort for the Wii's Balance Board accessory. Rather than the specialized force platforms used to quantify patients' ability to balance after a trauma like stroke, doctors at the University of Melbourne thought that a Balance Board might serve as well. Says the article: "When doctors disassembled the board, they found the accelerometers and strain gauges to be of 'excellent' quality. 'I was shocked given the price: it was an extremely impressive strain gauge set-up.'" Games controllers you'd expect to be durable and at least fairly accurate; what's surprising is just how much comparable, purpose-built devices cost. In this case, the Balance Board (just under $100) was compared favorably with a test platform that costs just a shade less than $18,000.
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Wii Balance Board Gives $18,000 Medical Device a Run For Its Money

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  • by LostCluster (625375) * on Sunday January 17, 2010 @05:45PM (#30801526)

    What determines the price of a scale is not just its equipment or accuracy.. but also the insurance the manufacturer has to carry in case something goes wrong. That's why medical devices are more expensive... you're also paying for the liability of somebody being misdiagnosed by a technical malfunction. Highly unlikely, but the money that has to be paid when that happens and gets proven is huge.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 17, 2010 @05:53PM (#30801582)

      What determinds the price is production, and demand. The wiimote is mass produced, which makes the price even less. And its in high demand.
      Medical equipment? There is a certain number of hospitals involved ordering X amount of copies, and the demand is static. They will also pay for it. Basically its overpriced, but the question is how much its overpriced.

      • by Opportunist (166417) on Sunday January 17, 2010 @08:01PM (#30802694)

        What you fail to see, and what the GP identified successfully, is risk. Now, with average consumer equipment the risk is very close to zero. If it doesn't work, no biggie. Get the customer to return it and 2-4 weeks later he'll get a replacement. If he gets hurt in the process of using it, no biggie either. We just told him we're not responsible for any dumb accident he might run into. If that can't be excluded, the price goes up.

        I hate car analogies like anyone, but in this case it's one of the things where liability is part of the price. Faulty cars can result in incredible cost, and that is reflected in the price. You get the same with dangerous work and the compensation you get for it. And illegal drugs are not really expensive due to high manufacturing costs either, or an insane demand compared to the supply (you'd be surprised how high the supply for some drugs really is...). It's the risk involved.

        You can actually get medical equipment very cheaply, provided you declare that you will not use it for human use. What else you could use a heart monitor for is beyond me, but when they can strip liability from the price tag, the price goes down. Considerably down. Think 1/10th of the "all warranties included" price tag. It's probably easier to see for the everyday user with consumables. Syringes can be used for more than injecting something into a living body, thus you can get the same syringes with or without "medical" quality. Both kinds are essentially the same syringes. One kind is "certified" and thus with all liability and warranty attached, one isn't. Both are equally sterile, simply because the manufacturing process is the same, they roll off the same presses. Now compare the price.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by JWW (79176)

          Risk makes health care expensive? I though that including malpractice reform in health care reform wouldn't really matter with respect to cost......

          Note as shown very directly by this article, the cost of malpractice insurance at every level of healthcare is a major driver of the enormous cost and leaving tort reform out of the current health care "reform" was unacceptable.

        • by wvmarle (1070040) on Monday January 18, 2010 @05:47AM (#30805886)

          We're talking about a diagnostic device. Not a life saving device. Not even for internal use. It is quantifying balance: we know the patient has balance, we just want to know how much of it. It is not even diagnosing whether a patient has a disease or not, or what disease a patient has.

          If it is faulty, the doctors will know. Either it doesn't work, or the values do not make sense. A doctor with a little bit of experience will know from looking at the test about where the number should end up, and if out of expectations can take another device to test again. They're cheap, so you can have more than one on hand.

          Sterility is not even an issue here (beyond basic cleanliness of course), it is not for use in an OR.

          The main reason these things are/were so expensive I think is because of the very small product runs. Really small: hundreds, maybe a few thousand. There was no other use for these sensors, so development cost has to be shared over a few thousand pieces at most. Come the Wii with its gadges using basically the same tech, and both production cost and development cost per unit drop enormously. It matters a lot if you share costs between 1000 or 100,000 units.

          Then probably the medical version is much stronger and sturdier, lasting longer, but the price difference is too big to make up for that.

      • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 17, 2010 @11:04PM (#30803936)

        Production and demand are sufficient to determine price only when the market is perfect.

        This is not true for medical equipment, because the market is highly regulated.

        I work in the field of medical devices, so I see this every day. We have to keep copious records of the design process of the hardware, the testing to validate and demonstrate perormance, and each device has a record kept of every periodic maintenance call and every service call for a performance problem (e.g. breakdown).

        All this adds to the cost to bring a product to market, and then adds to the cost of keeping a device running.

        And on top of all that, the health "systems" that provide patient care in the USA are an extemely imperfect market...

        I have seen many instances in the North Eastern states of extreme over-capacity. Great, in that if you need an X-Ray or an MRI you can get it done within fifteen minutes (which is three sets of paperwork to prove you can pay). But that means that a device is sitting around 80% of its time unused. But other posters will point out, "you can't put a price on your health", so people will cough up to $3200 for a simple abdominal X-Ray that takes, literally, 45 seconds of device time. The same X-Ray costs (I'm told) around $800 in Japan, and less in France or the UK. But in France and the UK, you turn up for your appointment, fill out no extra paperwork, but wait for maybe 90 to 120 minutes to go under the device, because it is utilised at 90% to 100% of the time.

        Finally, even though you state that "demand is static", this is not quite true. There is relatively little growth in the number of hospital beds places in the USA,Europe and Japan, but the demand for every increasing resolution in imaging, ever faster turnaround, every simpler interfaces so that less qualified (i.e., cheaper) staff can operate the device for more qualified staff (i.e. doctors) to spend more time doing diagnoses... And that is in the mature, saturated markets of the world... then we can talk about BRICS...

        AC

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Actually, you're forgetting the "there's only 2 companies on the planet that build this particular specialist piece of equipment so we're going to charge you through the nose for it" surcharge. Let's face it, medical appliances are outrageously expensive because they can get away with it, not because they actually "cost" that much.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by LostCluster (625375) *

        Tell Washington, DC about that. If companies are charging a monopoly rent, they should be regulated.

        • by ThogScully (589935) <neilsd@neilschelly.com> on Sunday January 17, 2010 @06:24PM (#30801896) Homepage

          Those companies are only abusing their monopoly if someone new comes in and is pressured out of the market by anti-competitive tactics. If no one else wants to take advantage of the opportunity to compete in a market, you're looking for a different reason why. Off the top of my head, perhaps there's too much government regulation making it too difficult to get into that field. Too much insurance costs because of liability concerns in an overly litigious society. Perhaps just no one realized how much of an opportunity there was here because no one really has a clue how much healthcare costs these days since no one using it looks at the bills anymore - they just have their insurance cover it and complain when there's a problem. How do you expect competition in a market to lower prices when the consumer doesn't decide what features to invest in and compare based on price?

          In other words, the answer you're looking for is not "more government" - that is the problem.
          -N

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by LostCluster (625375) *

            That's a theory that's debated in college, and I take the opposite side. Proof that somebody was hurt shouldn't be needed to prove monopoly abuse. What about the company that was never founded because somebody told the would-be founder that it wasn't worth doing? If nobody's willing to extend you credit because the monopoly exists, then that's a barrier to entry.

    • by MightyMartian (840721) on Sunday January 17, 2010 @05:56PM (#30801620) Journal

      What determined the price was the word "medical". It's a word, like "marine" which denotes adding zeros to the price of an item that costs only a moderate amount to actually manufacture.

      • by LostCluster (625375) * on Sunday January 17, 2010 @06:11PM (#30801780)
        Yep. The word "medical" means lots of requirements for the device on it's way to being used... Nintendo gets around those by saying they're not selling a medical device.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by mikael (484)

        It used to be the same with "unix" hardware in the 1980's/1990's, particularly with commodity components like mice, printer and scanner cables. An RS232 cable for an Apple Mac or PC clone that cost around $20, would be marked up for $200 for a UNIX workstation. To make sure that only the official cable was used, there would be loop-back configurations built into unused pins at each end of the cable, so that a connector patched up from twenty-five core cable and a couple of RS232 snap connectors wouldn't wor

        • by LtGordon (1421725) on Sunday January 17, 2010 @06:55PM (#30802138)

          To make sure that only the official cable was used, there would be loop-back configurations built into unused pins at each end of the cable, so that a connector patched up from twenty-five core cable and a couple of RS232 snap connectors wouldn't work.

          Kind of like how Apple charges $35 for an iPod USB wall charger, and makes sure that my generic USB wall chargers / powered USB hub won't work.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by mysidia (191772)

        Let's just say for the sake of argument the Wii balance board, and the medical device both cost $10 million to research and design.

        Ignoring the additional compliance, insurance, and qualification a medical device VS a toy has to go through to be produced.

        Let's just say nintendo or their insurer was really concerned about safety, and perfect operation of the debe no complaints.

        Further, let's say once all the preliminary work was done, the Wii board cost $75 per unit in materials and labor to manuf

        • by RobVB (1566105) on Sunday January 17, 2010 @07:55PM (#30802632)

          Nice post with a nice result, although you used some mystery maths to get there.

          Sales proceeds need to be: $93.5 million. That means, the price for each unit needs to be: $93.50 per unit. What if they want a healthier profit margin? Their sole purpose in life is to manufacture medical devices, they don't sell software -- they need a good profit margin from selling their product. A fair profit margin is 100% or more. To achieve that, the minimum price is $930.50 per unit.

          First you say 85 bucks is their break-even point, which means they have to sell it at 93.50 for a 10% profit margin (1.1 times 85). Then you somehow (almost) multiplied by 10 to get 930.50 bucks?

          If 85 bucks is break-even, then they'll have a 100% profit margin selling at twice that, or 170 bucks. Not 930.50.

          Also, 1 million sales is unrealistic for a niche product, it will probably be more like 200,000 sales. To maintain a healthy product with 1/20 of 1 million, the actual price needed will be 20x that, or $18,610.00

          200,000 is 1/5 of 1 million. So following your line of thought, the actual price would be 5 times 170, or 850 bucks.

          You did, however, say they produced 1 million of them, costing them 75 million in parts and labor. If they're only making 200,000 those costs would only be 15 million. Adding 10 million research costs to that makes a total of 25 million in production costs. To get that 100% profit margin, they'd need to earn 50 million in sales, meaning 50 million bucks/ 200,000 units = 250 bucks per unit.

          Holy smokes, that's nowhere near the "$18,000 medical device" price.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Jhon (241832)

      Another question to ask is exactly how much time/effort/money Nintendo went through to get this controller FDA approved. What? It's not FDA approved?

    • by Hadlock (143607) on Sunday January 17, 2010 @06:02PM (#30801680) Homepage Journal

      exactly. the FDA requires significant documentation of the hardware and software along all lines of the R&D, and manufacturing process. which are actively audited by the FDA. documentation, and documentation compliance is a huge chunk (not the largest, but definitely a line item on their accounting paperwork) of their budget.

      • exactly. the FDA requires significant documentation of the hardware and software along all lines of the R&D, and manufacturing process. which are actively audited by the FDA. documentation, and documentation compliance is a huge chunk (not the largest, but definitely a line item on their accounting paperwork) of their budget.

        Seems to me that all this documentation and testing is perhaps not all that necessary for some "medical" devices.

        Sure, something that's going to irradiate me to kill tumors or check for broken bones? Go ahead and get it all kinds of FDA tested. Pills? Drugs? Implants? Yeah, let's get those tested too.

        A balance board or a scale? I'm thinking it's probably good enough to make sure they read accurately and then call it done. What's the worst that's going to happen if a scale malfunctions? Is anybody go

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Hadlock (143607)

          What about the software that interprets the data? The driver to connect the scale to the software? Yeah I bet you could slap together some code in python in a day or two, but it still has to be documented, and verified by the FDA. I'd rather they be too careful, and have a device they can trust, rather than look at some data, notice an anomaly, and dismiss it because "the software is buggy", when in fact it might be significant in that you had a minor stroke and they didn't catch it due to crappy data coll

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Nazlfrag (1035012)

          Someone could be misdiagnosed and sue is what could happen.

    • How about the testing to get approved for medical use? Validation that it actually produces results good enough to base a medical diagnosis or treatment on? And the limited market that the medical devices get? When you get specialized, niche devices, the cost to get one is going to be high.

    • Actually, it's more a matter of volume manufacturing. If you have to spread out your fixed manufacturing costs among only a few hundred of something for some hospitals, they're going to be very high per item, thus resulting in a very high price. If you mass market millions of them, those same costs might only be a few pennies per item.

      Before the Wii, there wasn't much demand for mass producing these kinds of components.

    • by vlm (69642) on Sunday January 17, 2010 @06:40PM (#30802014)

      What determines the price of a scale is not just its equipment or accuracy.. but also the insurance the manufacturer has to carry in case something goes wrong. That's why medical devices are more expensive...

      You're missing a couple other issues:

      1) Provably sterile out of the box. If the patient has an open foot ulcer, and some Chinese dude sneezed on the board before he wrapped it up, and then the patient dies of infection...

      2) Bodily fluid proof, if not disposable or autoclave-able. The board is too expensive to toss and too weak to autoclave, furthermore god only knows what it'll do electrically when a patient pees on it. Or if not pee, some highly conductive cleaning fluid. Or blood.

      3) Intrinsically safe. In the unlikely event of using or storing the board in an atmosphere contaminated by flammable anesthetics, it won't blow up. Closely related to oxygen proof plastics. No great achievement to make a plastic that does not support combustion in plain ole air, but I have no idea what plastics (if any) will not continue to burn in pure oxygen. And you know some heart patient is going to drop their oxy mask on the wii board and the batteries will spark at the same time. Also if the patient collapses and you need to use the crash cart, you don't want the electronics inside to catch fire. Would be unfortunate to restart a patients heart only to have the patient die of infected burns.

      4) Proven EMC/EMI compatibility. Last thing you want is for the board to interfere with the patients portable EKG machine or whatever.

      5) There are all kinds of allergen related issues. For example, no latex (rubber bands) used internally for any part at any time during construction. Peanut oil sounds like a "green" lubricant for metal machining, etc, until you run into someone with an allergy.

      6) Connected. It needs to be sold by the current collection of booth-babe saleswomen with open purchase order accounts at the hospital. Its possible the hospital has no pre-existing relationship with any place that sells wii balance boards... Literally no way for purchasing to buy one...

      7) Software licensing which probably prohibits this kind of activity, along with controlling nuclear power plants and air traffic control. "Lean forward to lower the control rods, lean back to raise the control rods. Lean left and right to control primary circulation pumps. Walk in place as if running away to declare a SCRAM."

      Theres a bunch of other "EE" related medical device rules that are pretty interesting, especially as regards AC power supplies, until it gets too creepy realizing a bunch of folks died before they figured the rules out.

      Its not so hard to follow the rules, its just HARDER to prove someone in China followed the rules...

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by snowgirl (978879) *

      What determines the price of a scale is not just its equipment or accuracy.. but also the insurance the manufacturer has to carry in case something goes wrong. That's why medical devices are more expensive... you're also paying for the liability of somebody being misdiagnosed by a technical malfunction. Highly unlikely, but the money that has to be paid when that happens and gets proven is huge.

      There's a lot of stuff that goes into a device to "certify it for blah blah use". Like you said, liability insurance. There's also a lot more stuff. Like the fact that doctors can expect to recoup greater amounts of the price of the unit than a gamer is likely to.

      Take the same device, everything the exact same. Sell it to people who are paying out of pocket, and sell it to people who have insurance to cover it, and the people who are paying out of pocket are going to spend a lot more time assessing the

    • Medical insanity (Score:3, Insightful)

      by syousef (465911)

      What determines the price of a scale is not just its equipment or accuracy.. but also the insurance the manufacturer has to carry in case something goes wrong. That's why medical devices are more expensive... you're also paying for the liability of somebody being misdiagnosed by a technical malfunction. Highly unlikely, but the money that has to be paid when that happens and gets proven is huge.

      So they system is "protecting" patients right out of being able to afford treatment, and people are still willing

    • by NonSequor (230139)

      What determines the price of a scale is not just its equipment or accuracy.. but also the insurance the manufacturer has to carry in case something goes wrong. That's why medical devices are more expensive... you're also paying for the liability of somebody being misdiagnosed by a technical malfunction. Highly unlikely, but the money that has to be paid when that happens and gets proven is huge.

      The ideal solution to that would be for a company to get a special development license where they agree to indemnify Nintendo against medical liability for the use of the device and they write the software while making use of Nintendo's hardware.

      The software would likely still carry a heavy price tag for the testing and insurance cost, but it would be much cheaper than the $18,000 which includes likely includes large fixed development costs spread over a smaller number of units.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by sugarmatic (232216)

      I call BS. I have been involved in medical device development and licensing for some time. I can ballpark what the liability for a device such as this would be, and it is pretty small. The reality of the medical device industry is that it is a bubble that is largely propped up by low expectations, high regulatory barrier to entry, and other inherent consequences of our current medical device market system.

      Take, for example, a glucose monitor (specifically, the most widely used system on the market in the US

  • What have we here? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by tonycheese (921278) on Sunday January 17, 2010 @05:50PM (#30801562)

    Wii parts replacing 18,000 dollar medical equipment... PS3s replacing 10,000 dollar supercomputers... clearly the video game industry knows something we don't.

    • Closed consoles can buy parts in bulk. There's only one SKU of the Wii... you either get the default hardware or you can't call it a Wii. This makes programming a whole lot easier, because you know exactly what hardware your program is going to be running on.

    • by chuckymonkey (1059244) <<moc.liamg> <ta> <notrub.d.selrahc>> on Sunday January 17, 2010 @06:02PM (#30801674) Journal
      Video games: Why waste good technology on science and medicine? Kidding aside, I think that it's a good thing that these machines are being re-purposed. I wish that we could do it for a lot more equipment and drive down the cost of health care a little.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      As a guy who designs electronics for load transducers for living, I can tell ya that a balance board equivalent platform won't run you anywhere near $18,000. Probably more like $4k. One thing that makes the Wii device cheap is the mass production. Try selling a 100 of those a year for $100 apiece -- it's impossible. The tooling for plastic injection molding will cost you more than $18k alone. As for electronics themselves, they are not really a factor in the supposed $18k, er, $4k, price. I admit I haven't

    • by Kjella (173770)

      And that something is producing 65 million units, and selling only a slight profit because it also sells game licenses, accessories and so on. I don't recall ever standing on a balance board at any doctor or hospital I've been to, and lots of people can probably use that one board, so I'm guessing the market is tiny.

      P.S. It's not that solid. My pad has gotten to the point where the standing on one foot exercises will make the board black out. I use it as a weight with tracking these days, I was getting tire

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by tenverras (855530)
      The Wii Balance Board is the Canada of medical devices. Cheap, but just as effective as its expensive counterparts
    • by lanner (107308) on Sunday January 17, 2010 @07:18PM (#30802332)

      It's all BS. Forget all of the posts regarding FDA, documentation, testing, and that crap.

      It's just a matter of how many units get sold, like microprocessors.

      If you design, make, and sell one, it's $500 million. If you design one, make 500 million, and sell 500 million, they cost $1 each. Profit is the same either way.

      Not a lot of people buy medical devices, with some exceptions.

      Nintendo can't make them and start with high prices, then drop them later. They have to assume how many they will make, sell, and guess a good price before their first unit is sold.

      And yes, I have worked in medical device manufacturing, and I currently work in non-profit cancer research. We have numerous genetic sequencers around, like ones from Illumina. They cost like $750K each, but it's really surprising how little materials is actually in them. A $500 laptop is technologically 10,000 times more advanced than one of those Illumina boxes.

      It's true that medical devices are more expensive, and I'd be the first person crying foul about it, but they often really really do have good reasons to justify the higher costs... usually.

      If you want to talk about price rape, look no further than Cisco.

      $2000 card
      http://www.cdw.com/shop/products/default.aspx?EDC=1352161 [cdw.com]

      $13,0000 card
      http://www.cdw.com/shop/products/default.aspx?edc=1424619 [cdw.com]

      They are the SAME EXACT CARD, with a little tiny firmware tweak. We have a couple of these in the 5580 series firewalls.

  • Obligatory (Score:5, Funny)

    by Naurgrim (516378) <naurgrim@karn.org> on Sunday January 17, 2010 @05:51PM (#30801566) Homepage

    Ah, I see you have the machine that goes ping. This is my favorite. You see we lease it back from the company we sold it to and that way it comes under the monthly current budget and not the capital account.

  • No wonder (Score:3, Insightful)

    by ArchieBunker (132337) on Sunday January 17, 2010 @05:51PM (#30801568) Homepage

    Hospitals charge so much. Someone along the way decided to jack up a price and its been flowing downhill to the consumers ever since.

    • People have been clamoring for years about "Health Reform" and "Tort Reform" without realizing those issues are linked.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by jedidiah (1196)

        They actually have squat to do with each other.

        "Tort reform" is the rich scaring the poor and stupid into absolving them
        of any real responsibility for when something goes wrong. Not only do you
        have to be stupid and careless in order to be sued, but you also have to
        be a total jerk about taking responsibility for your actions.

        Big scary verdicts only occur when perpetrators and insurance companies try
        to blow off their victims. Then equally ignorant saps in the jury add zeros
        with no real understanding of the nu

        • Medical malpractice lawsuits are tort cases... and we know how much testing is only done because of fear of the lawsuits. Limit the liability, and there would be much less wasted medicine being practiced.

          • Re:No wonder (Score:5, Interesting)

            by Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) on Sunday January 17, 2010 @06:29PM (#30801942)

            Medical malpractice lawsuits are tort cases... and we know how much testing is only done because of fear of the lawsuits. Limit the liability, and there would be much less wasted medicine being practiced.

            Hasn't seemed to make much difference in Texas - the state with so much tort reform that the Governor likes to brag that malpractice insurance rates have come down - but no metric that measure the quality of healthcare has improved, for example:

            • The percentage of uninsured people in Texas has increased, remaining the highest in the country with a quarter of Texans now uninsured;
            • The cost of health insurance in the state has more than doubled;
            • The cost of health care in Texas (measured by per patient Medicare reimbursements) has increased at nearly double the national average; and
            • Spending increases for diagnostic testing (measured by per patient Medicare reimbursements) have far exceeded the national average.

            Even worse - most of the malpractice savings have gone to the insurance companies, because malpractice payments have gone 67% but malpractice insurance premiums have only gone down 27%.

            Public Citizen, Dec 17th, 2009 [citizen.org]

        • by tomhath (637240)

          "Tort reform" is the rich scaring the poor and stupid into absolving them of any real responsibility for when something goes wrong.

          That doesn't seem to be the case in the UK; if you have a legitimate case you can sue, but you risk incurring big costs if you lose. In the US it's "free" to sue, the plaintiff might win but almost never loses; the defendant loses no matter what the verdict. [nytimes.com]

    • Hospitals charge so much. Someone along the way decided to jack up a price and its been flowing downhill to the consumers ever since.

      Why not? Your health is the most valuable thing you have. As long as it is a commodity that you have to buy from someone, what price wouldn't you pay for it? So far, the market will bear health being a sixth of the entire economy. Shall we try for a fifth?

  • Price-gouging (Score:3, Interesting)

    by GreatBunzinni (642500) on Sunday January 17, 2010 @05:55PM (#30801598)

    Is it due to the Wii's balance board being terribly cheap or is it due to the the price of the "medical-grade" device being extremely over-inflated? Some of the prices practised by medical equipment and even drug distributors are insane and they always hide behind the mysterious "it's fantastic, medical-grade stuff" and that quite possibly is plain bullshit to increase their profit.

    • What separates the medicine you get at the corner store and the medicine you get at a hospital is the fact you find it yourself on the store shelf rather than a highly trained pharmacist finding it, and passing it on to a highly trained nurse to give it to you and make sure you are the right person, because the liability of delivering the wrong medication to the wrong patient is huge.

      • Surely their systems aren't so bad as to deliver the wrong medicine to the wrong patient. I can understand the odd slip up leading to the wrong medicine for the right patient or the right medicine for the wrong patient but getting both wrong at once must happen far less frequently.

        • It's an infrequent event, but the result if it happens can be a wrongful death... and nobody wants that to happen.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 17, 2010 @05:56PM (#30801614)

    With price comes respectability. That's why Christian Science practitioners always make a point of charging for their prayers roughly as much as a real doctor would charge for treatment: They know that something given away will not be percieved as effective.

    Same thing here. Stick a patient on a wii board, and they'll regard it as quack rubbish. Stick them on an $18,000 purpose-built and impressive piece of diagnostic equipment with the logo of a respected medical equipment manufacturer (ie, not nintendo) and they'll feel far more confident, even if they do exactly the same thing equally well.

    Customers who feel they arn't being given an expensive enough service are more likely to sue the hospital.

  • Perception (Score:3, Insightful)

    by jlb.think (1719718) on Sunday January 17, 2010 @06:02PM (#30801672)
    It is all just people's perception. A videogame can't be too expensive, but it damn well better work so the market pushes high quality at low prices. In the medical world we expect devices to cost out of the ass and be complex. That is the exact opposite of the videogame, or rather, the general technology world. It is about time there is direct market competition with the medical device manufactures who rip us off and overcharge for clunky hard to use equipment that doesn't work that well in the first place.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 17, 2010 @06:02PM (#30801678)

    I had been prescribed a medical device to assist in night time breathing... after asking the clinic person to show me an itemized list of parts and costs, I was shocked at the bill - over $2,200 (USD). She was annoyed that I wanted this list printed out because my insurance was "going to pay for it anyway..."

    A few months later, my insurance no longer wishes to pay the rental costs - so I have to return it or pay $250/month. Found online for $700 new and delivered with three years of support.

    Only when you put medical care in a truly competitive market is when you'll actually see competitive prices.

    • by Big Boss (7354) on Sunday January 17, 2010 @06:35PM (#30801986)

      I've started purchasing my own CPAP machine and accessories as well. Far cheaper than dealing with the home medical place locally (owned by my insurance company no less), even with insurance coverage picking up part of the bill. For less money, I get a better machine and direct support. And I can run the purchase through my FSA, so it's tax free. :)

      FWIW, nebulizers are the same way. I bought a very nice machine online for about half the cost of the local place, and the local place wanted to give me a gigantic POS. I bought a very compact unit that has much nicer features.

  • Eyetoy (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    The eyetoy from the PS3 is also de best camera in the market and it costs less than 40€. It has 75 degree wide lenses and can reach 125 fps. This is much more than what most cameras do. Even the 200€ ones.

  • accelerometers? (Score:3, Informative)

    by edelbrp (62429) on Sunday January 17, 2010 @06:23PM (#30801892)

    "When doctors disassembled the board, they found the accelerometers..."

    They did? I couldn't find any information stating that the balance board had motion sensing. Everything I've read says it just has four pressure sensors, one for each corner and that's it.

    • Re:accelerometers? (Score:4, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 17, 2010 @06:39PM (#30802004)

      New Scientist may have made that up. The actual journal article on ScienceDirect only discusses a black-box approach: i.e., putting patients on the board and seeing what happens. The procedure doesn't mention disassembling the device whatsoever!

  • When the Wii Fit first came out... there were several modes of operation that the experts thought should be in the software. Nintendo's first response was to say such people were welcome to develop their own games, then when realizing they were so simple to program the $20 new disk called "Wii Fit Plus" (which now replaces the original disk in the new package for new users) was Nintendo's make good.
  • Nintendo should work on a fMRI-based game interface that can translate your thoughts into game actions. That should get the price of fMRI scanners down to a few hundred dollars each and immensely benefit medical research.

    Once they are done with that, they can work on a DNA sequencing controller that customizes your on-screen avatar to look and act like you based on your genetic sequence.

    And so forth, until all medical equipment and tests costs a few hundred dollars each.

  • I could see some folks using this a first stage "cut out" instrument sort of like the difference between
    most road side BAC tests and a real live blood test or as a "backup" device.

  • by POds (241854) on Sunday January 17, 2010 @07:23PM (#30802392) Homepage Journal

    I know in my professional industry, there may be many a cool technology or device that i want to use, but may not be able to, despite the fact it looks good and can handle what i throw at it. However, i may not technically be able to use it because it has not been tested against specific guidelines or a part of the product was not tested against particular standards with the right amount of traceability.

    I believe that’s why some particular product may cost more than any other. I.e a device to be used in a medical institute for diagnosis of any kind would probably require quite a lot of process in it's accreditation that the Wii probably didn't have to go through to be used as a game machine.

  • by Comatose51 (687974) on Sunday January 17, 2010 @08:35PM (#30802934) Homepage
    The reason medical devices are so expensive has little to do with lawsuits when compared with the number one reason: the market for health care is distorted because the decision maker (doctor) is not the person paying for the decision (the patient or insurance). Medical device companies just market directly to doctors. Medical conferences are like industry paid vacations for doctors. Even if you tell your doctor that your Wii balance board does the same thing as the $18,000 device, he's still not going to prescribe it because he has no incentive to. He doesn't bear the cost of paying for it. You do or most likely your insurance do. You see the exact same thing in the textbook industry. The professors make the decision and the students pay for it. When the two entities are not the same, you have a market that's distorted and normal mechanisms of capitalism don't lead to lower costs and greater efficiency like they do in other areas. Of course FDA approval definitely plays into this by making it easier for doctors to have support for their decisions.
  • by sneakyimp (1161443) on Sunday January 17, 2010 @08:37PM (#30802948)

    This reminds me of the $800 hammer that defense contractors sold to the US government back in the 80's. It was an ordinary hammer.

  • by nsayer (86181) <nsayer@NosPaM.kfu.com> on Sunday January 17, 2010 @10:50PM (#30803842) Homepage

    Want to make a mint selling ordinary hardware?

    All you need to do is either

    A. Get it FDA certified for use in medicine.

    Or

    B. Get it FAA approved for use in aviation.

    You can pretty much guarantee a 100x price premium in the former case or perhaps 10-20x in the latter case.

    Of course, requiring government certification for things upon which the general public relies for life safety is not necessarily a bad thing, but the price premium that comes from the certification requirement probably is proportional to the square of the cost of doing whatever is necessary to obtain said certification.

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