Through FPGA enabled equipment, doctors can give precise diagnosis with electronic patient information.

Programmable logic is a flexible, low-risk path to successful system design—offering optimum cost efficiencies while providing value-added differentiating capabilities with long life cycles for medical health application including diagnostic imaging, electromedical, therapeutics, and life science & hospital equipment.


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 below, 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.

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 Intel Advantage

Intel gives medical electronics equipment manufacturers a competitive edge. Intel’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. Intel PLDs, including the Intel® Stratix® 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.

Intel PLDs offer medical electronics equipment manufacturers a flexible, cost-effective, obsolescence-free path to successful system design. Some of the opportunities that Intel 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 Intel’s products can reduce engineering costs and shorten time-to-market. Standard interfaces and IP cores are available from Intel and approved Intel IP partners.

Intel designs, supports, and sells Intel® FPGA IP functions. All Intel® FPGA IP functions have been rigorously tested and optimized for the highest performance and lowest cost in Intel PLDs.

Development Kits

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


Term Description
Automatic External Defibrillators (AEDs) AEDs are used to jump-start a heart that has failed due to heart attack or cardiac arrest. It is designed to specifically enable easy use by non-medical personnel.
Cardiac Rhythm Management (CRM) CRM is part of the medical device industry that focuses on pacing systems, implantable defibrillators, and automatic external defibrillators.
Cascaded Integrated Combinatorial(CIC) Filter Cascaded integrated combinatorial filters are multirate filters used for realizing large sample rate changes in digital systems. Both decimation and interpolation structures are supported. CIC filters contain no multipliers--they consist only of adders, subtractors, and registers. They are typically employed in applications that have a large excess sample rate; that is, the system sample rate is much larger than the bandwidth occupied by the signal. (Definition provided by The Scientist and Engineer's Guide to Digital Signal Processing. Steven W. Smith, 1997, p568-570)
Computerized Tomography (CT) A CT scan is an x-ray procedure that is enhanced by a computer. This results in a three-dimensional view (referred to as a "slice") of a particular part of the body. Typical applications include viewing the chest, abdomen, and spinal cord. (Definition provided by St. Joseph Regional Medical Center web site.)
Data Acquisition Card (DAC) One of the numerous cards found in a diagnostic imaging system. It is responsible for processing data (filtering) in the front end of the system.
Data Consolidation Card (DCD) One of the numerous cards found in a diagnostic imaging system. Once the data is processed by the data acquisition card, it is fed into the DCD for analysis and buffering.
External Memory Interface (EMIF) Memory interfaces used by digital signal processors.
Gantry Found in CT machines, a gantry rotates around a patient for cross-sectional views.
Implantable Cardiac Defibrillator (ICD) ICDs are similar to pacing systems in that they continuously monitor the heart’s rhythm. ICDs treat tachyarrhythmia (fast heart beat). If the heart beats too quickly, the ICD issues a lifesaving jolt of electricity to restore the heart’s normal rhythm and prevent sudden cardiac death.
Intra-Venous (IV) System IV systems are medicine delivery systems that are commonly found in hospitals.
Low Noise Amplifier (LNA) LNAs are analog components found in various medical systems.
Magnetic resource imaging (MRI) A patient examination utilizing a magnetic field and radio waves to produce a highly accurate view of the inside of any portion of the body. It is a painless and extremely safe procedure because no radiation is used. Typical fields that use MRIs include neurology and cardiology. (Definition provided by the Columbus Diagnostic Imaging web site.)
Modality Diagnostic equipment such as X-rays, CTs, etc.
Modulation The process of manipulating the frequency carrier or amplitude in relation to an incoming video signal.
Nuclear/PET Nuclear medicine uses small amounts of radioactive trace materials to help diagnose and treat a number of diseases. Nuclear medicine differs from X-rays, ultrasounds, and other diagnostic tests by determining the cause of the medical problem based on the function of the organ, tissue, or bone rather than its structural appearance. Typical applications include cardiology/vascular and tumor diagnosis and treatment. (Definition provided by the Standford Hospital web site.)
Radiography and Fluoroscopy (RNF) A type of diagnostic X-ray. Radiography provides an image of a organ, while fluoroscopy allows a view of the function of the organ.
Slip Ring Found inside the Gantry, the slip ring provides a continuous electrical connection to the stationary portion of the CT machine.
Time Gain Control (TGC) Analog circuitry found in diagnostic imaging systems.
Ultrasound Ultrasound is the use of sound waves to obtain a medical image or picture of various organs and tissues in the body. It is a painless and safe procedure. Ultrasound produces very precise images of soft tissue (heart, blood vessels, uterus, bladder, etc.) and reveals internal motion such as heartbeat and blood flow. It can detect diseased or damaged tissues, locate abnormal growths and identify a wide variety of changing conditions including fetal development, which enables our physicians to make a quick and accurate diagnosis. Typical applications include cardiology, gynecological, abdominal, etc. (definition provided by St. Joseph Regional Medical Center website.)
X-Rays X-rays are basically visible light rays—both are wave-like forms of electromagnetic energy carried by particles called photons. The difference between them is the energy level of the individual photons, which is also expressed as the wavelength of the rays. X-rays have been around for several decades and have a very well-established market base. Typical applications include mammography, dental, fluoroscopy, vascular, surgical, and mobile. (definition provided by