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

timothy posted more than 4 years ago | from the hat-tip-to-tim-o-reilly dept.

Medicine 422

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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"Not for ________ use" (5, Insightful)

LostCluster (625375) | more than 4 years ago | (#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.

Re:"Not for ________ use" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30801560)

Not only that but Nintendo probably doesn't have a 4-hour on-site response time if something goes wrong with your Wii. (then again, at $100 a pop, you could probably afford to stockpile a few)

Re:"Not for ________ use" (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30802036)

Not really. I think what's happening with consumer gear becoming more and more complex and "agile" is that the whole concept of expensive custom hardware is becoming obsolete.

While some devices (MRIs, x-rays machines, ultrasound imagers) are legitimately expensive, other gear, such as the one in the article, are being revealed to be extremely simple devices that are simple marked up due to the OEM knowing that their target market has deep pockets.

In some ways, it's analogous to the software movement in the late 80s where software engineers and their tools were in such shortage that they were only found in high budget corporate and government settings. The commodification of computers led to computer programmers becoming commonplace, allowing the development of cheap software development on consumer grade computers and paving the way for the open source movement where programmers' time is in such supply that they can afford to give it away for free(tm).

The mass production and wide availability of advanced components such as accelerometers, GPS chips, DSPs and other previously prohibitively expensive items are bringing highly sophisticated applications into the realms of the consumer where novel ideas are being explored and old expensive ideas are being redone with a Made In China label on them.

Finally, I could maybe buy the insurance line if we were talking perhaps even a few multiples, but a $100 device to $18k? That's one hell of an insurance policy.

Re:"Not for ________ use" (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#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.

Re:"Not for ________ use" (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30801786)

Hmm? High demand for the wii balance board would have the effect producing a higher price.

Re:"Not for ________ use" (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30801916)

Not really, demand is a curve, not a point. The difference is that the demand curve for medical devices is fairly steep relative to consumer electronics - the change in price needed to cause an appreciable change in demand is fairly drastic since the amount hospitals want is fairly fixed, where a small price changes would cause large changes in demand for consumer electronics. It thus makes more sense to move further "right" along the demand curve (p = D(x) - price at which x units are demanded) and make up the smaller profit margin with larger volume. You also have a market that warrants mass production rather than small scale - think handcrafted furniture vs IKEA.

Re:"Not for ________ use" (5, Insightful)

DJRumpy (1345787) | more than 4 years ago | (#30802030)

There is no justification for an $18,000 price difference for what amounts to the same fundamental technology. I don't need a formula, or theories as to why this is. The medical industry is full of a bunch of crooked greedy bastards. They use the same basic technology to accomplish the same result, probably with the very same components, all of which can obviously be had for very cheap. Costs are applied at the component level. If you can buy the same components for a Wii as in this other piece of equipment, their prices should be a bit closer. Our medical system has been gamed so badly for so many years, that a hospital doesn't even blink when they see $18,000 for a piece of equipment. They will happily pass the costs on to the patient, and the patients health insurance.

If this isn't a case of price fixing then I don't know what is.

What we really need is transparency is pricing for all medical costs. Force manufacturer's to provide their component costs for everything like eqiupment, drugs, and consumables, so that the consumer can see exactly what kind of markup their paying for.

Re:"Not for ________ use" (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30802268)

You have obviously never worked in an industry with high quality control standards. The price of some product isn't the sum of its individual components. You have to pay people to design it, and people to test it, and then pay insurance on it. For small markets, this means that the price is very steep for even simple things. What would you price this device if the parts cost $100 per unit, but the R&D cost (2 doctors and 2 engineers for 1 year) was $1 million, the insurance cost was $500,000/yr, the customer support cost was $100,000/yr, and the market size was 100/yr?

Re:"Not for ________ use" (1)

jmauro (32523) | more than 4 years ago | (#30802416)

The justification is they got someone to pay $18,000 for it without any sort of fraud. In a market economy that's really all you need. It's not the companies fault the people who buy their equipment are dumb.

Re:"Not for ________ use" (1)

Z34107 (925136) | more than 4 years ago | (#30802312)

Anon was right. Higher demand given the same supply raises prices.

Think about it logically: If nobody wants it (i.e., no demand) you can't charge much for it. Obviously you can't enter mass production if your market is for a total of five units, but that's a separate issue entirely.

Though my post sounds kind of like a Yahoo! Answers answer to a question nobody asked. Source: Econ major.

Re:"Not for ________ use" (2, Insightful)

obarthelemy (160321) | more than 4 years ago | (#30802018)

depends:
- some costs are fixed: design, overheads
- some costs are linearly progressive: materials, though may be degressive w/ volume discounts
- some costs are degressive : marketing, certification and legal (if applicable), maintenance infrastructure (if any)...

so as a general rules, the more you sell, the cheaper it is to make. The exceptions are capacity constraints, either materials or manufacturing capacity.

now, price != cost, and prices may rise even though your costs fall:
- limited market: no point cutting prices if you end up selling as much, not more, as with higher prices
- capacity constraints: if you can't make more, even though your costs are going down, there's no point
- unelastic demand: if demand does not react to price changes, no point to lowering prices
- luxury market: it has been proven that demand for some items actually falls when prices fall, because people are buying an image of exclusivity, quality... rather than a product.

Re:"Not for ________ use" (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30801594)

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:"Not for ________ use" (2, Insightful)

LostCluster (625375) | more than 4 years ago | (#30801642)

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

Re:"Not for ________ use" (3, Insightful)

ThogScully (589935) | more than 4 years ago | (#30801896)

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:"Not for ________ use" (2, Insightful)

LostCluster (625375) | more than 4 years ago | (#30802056)

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.

Re:"Not for ________ use" (-1)

adbge (1693228) | more than 4 years ago | (#30802202)

Natural monopolies exist for a reason and there is nothing inherently wrong with a monopoly.

The threat of competition is enough to keep a natural monopoly competitive. If said company becomes too abusive, new businesses will be profitable regardless of entry barriers.

Re:"Not for ________ use" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30801946)

Let's say company A spends $1 Million developing a medical device. Production costs are $50 per device and the expect 1000 sales. To break even, they need to sell it for $1050.

Now company B has the same expenses but a different market. They sell 100,000 of them, which puts their break even point at $60. Or less since they'll have economies of scales pushing the $50 marginal cost down.

Re:"Not for ________ use" (1)

mysidia (191772) | more than 4 years ago | (#30801784)

And there's only 1 company on the planet that builds the wiimote balance board....

The difference is the average gamer doesn't have the budget or the desire to spend $18,000 for a game controller. It has to be cheap, and there are certain compliance processes they don't need to deal with that a medical manufacturer does.

Moreover, with the high sales volume of a commodity game platform, they will make up Research and development costs easily, even though the price is less, the profit margin can be much greater than with the $18,000 device, which is still very expensive to originally research, design, test, qualify, and ultimately produce and support.

Re:"Not for ________ use" (1)

plover (150551) | more than 4 years ago | (#30801872)

There's another way to keep them cheaper for clinical use. Create an approved testing regimen, and certify each one that's going into a clinic. For those prices you could afford to perform $9,000 worth of tests on each and every board, and they'd still be half the price.

Re:"Not for ________ use" (3, Insightful)

MightyMartian (840721) | more than 4 years ago | (#30801620)

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.

Re:"Not for ________ use" (1)

Spaham (634471) | more than 4 years ago | (#30801650)

or audiophile, then you can add as many zeroes as you'd divide to make homeopathy tablets :)

Re:"Not for ________ use" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30801660)

Like sub sandwiches and submarines. Right?

Re:"Not for ________ use" (3, Insightful)

LostCluster (625375) | more than 4 years ago | (#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:"Not for ________ use" (2, Informative)

mikael (484) | more than 4 years ago | (#30801824)

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 work.

Re:"Not for ________ use" (3, Insightful)

LtGordon (1421725) | more than 4 years ago | (#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:"Not for ________ use" (1)

Max Littlemore (1001285) | more than 4 years ago | (#30802002)

Yeah, well if you believe that, I've got a marine bridge to sell you...

..hang on

Re:"Not for ________ use" (2, Insightful)

mysidia (191772) | more than 4 years ago | (#30802078)

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 manufacturer, and the medical force board cost exactly the same $75.

If Nintendo sells 5 million BBs to retailers at the price of $85 per unit, their net revnue is: ($85 - $75) * 5E6 - $10 mil = $40 million dollars revenue from the sale of BBs,

The sales proceeds were: $425 million dollars.
Their cost of sales were: $75 * 5E6 + $10 million = $385 million dollars.
$425 - $375 = $40 million

A very slim profit margin of 10%, but still not bad. Usually game consoles / accessories are sold at a loss anyways, the money is in the software, which can be updated at much lower cost.

Now... as for the medical device... we know there won't be demand for $5 million. Let's be conservative, and say the medical device manufacturer's market research tells them they can expect to sell 1,000,000 units, it is an innovative device at all, and there are thousands of hospitals all over the country.. What should the price be?

If they make it $85 bucks, even... their revenue will be:

($85 - $75) * 1million - $10 mil = $0

What? They spent $10 million to develop this, they sold 1 million units, and no revenue to show for it? Just taxable business operations? (By the time other costs are considered, this is actually a net loss of money)

Here's why: Sales proceeds: $85 * 1 million = $85 million in sales
Cost of sales: ( $75 * 1 million + 10 million = $85 million )

$85 - $75 = $0

So they have two options... go after a larger market that will buy more units, or raise the price.

Their product is only of interest to hospitals really, so the only option is to raise the price.

How much does the price need to be for there to be a 10% profit?

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.

At a higher price, two things will happen (1) they will sell fewer units, and (2) their support costs per unit will be higher -- better warranty and service will be expected.

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

Holy smokes.. that's awfully close to the '$18,000 medical device' price.

I wasn't planning on that, it was really a coincidence, honest..

I'm sure insurance is a consideration, but I think it pales into comparison to the small sales volume, and the high initial costs to design and manufacture any electronics good.

Re:"Not for ________ use" (2, Informative)

Jhon (241832) | more than 4 years ago | (#30801636)

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?

Re:"Not for ________ use" (1)

dwarfsoft (461760) | more than 4 years ago | (#30802210)

This is Australia, so the FDA means nothing over here :).

I'm pretty sure for things like Physio work there is an openness for individual Physios to use whatever tools they have available to assist. Not saying that they don't use tested devices over here, but perhaps for limited applications as were listed above this controller can be used instead of the more expensive device.

Having worked in the Healthcare system over here I have seen how some of the "Medical Devices" are put together. Usually the programming for the interface is so shoddy that it would not pass the QA that even most Commercial (yeah shoddy too) applications/devices do. Gaming devices, due to the nature of their use, are more likely to be thoroughly bug tested and more frequently used than most medical devices anyway. If there is an issue it will be found by the multitudes of users out there. Quite frankly, as was said earlier, Medical Devices are always overpriced with usually very little benefit gained for the price. If proper testing of all devices was done beforehand most of it would be denied installation, if the companies ever provided for testing before purchase in the first place (a lot gets sold on the spec sheet of what its supposed to provide, not on what it actually DOES provide).

Which comes to another thing about Medical personnel. If it breaks they don't report the issue because their time is "too important". This is an issue for the expensive medical devices which then fall outside of warranty or support contracts. Having cheaper alternatives that can be stockpiled is most definitely a step forward IMHO.

Re:"Not for ________ use" (4, Informative)

Hadlock (143607) | more than 4 years ago | (#30801680)

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.

Re:"Not for ________ use" (1)

Ethanol-fueled (1125189) | more than 4 years ago | (#30801804)

Also, I believe there's a law that requires support for discontinued products (class I and II devices?) for something like 3 years. Couldn't find it on Google. Anybody in the know?

Re:"Not for ________ use" (1)

Ephemeriis (315124) | more than 4 years ago | (#30802236)

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 going to be killed in a freak balance board accident?

Re:"Not for ________ use" (2, Insightful)

Hadlock (143607) | more than 4 years ago | (#30802382)

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 collection. And then you die. Or are paralyzed. No, I'd rather have the correctly build, specified, and documented devices used on me, thanks. Medical care (quality, not cost/availability)in the US is top notch due to all the checks the FDA has.

Re:"Not for ________ use" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30802408)

So the "Government" is the problem. Who'd a think?

Re:"Not for ________ use" (1)

Jeff DeMaagd (2015) | more than 4 years ago | (#30801712)

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.

Volume manufacturing (1)

KingSkippus (799657) | more than 4 years ago | (#30801776)

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.

Re:"Not for ________ use" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30801870)

First, can we start questioning whether these things, the medical balance board type things, actually do require such a stringent qualification before we nod our heads in agreement? Sure it sounds right, but that doesn't mean this piece of equipment in AUSTRALIA needs to follow FDA standards. Or any ridiculous standards in AUSTRALIA

If it is true, quite possibly some pieces of equipment shouldn't be on these ridiculous bullshit standards then. Do those medical scales or height measuring things need to go through bullshit levels of qualification? Does a stethoscope need to be approved by 15 different institutions with an A+ rating before it can be made? Hell, do those coats need to go through fireproofing and the ability to hold 400 pounds of weight?

I understand that some tools need a certain amount of study before being manufactured. You don't want stethoscopes with sharp edges or doctor's coats made of some nonhypoallergenic material. That's just carelessness. But the moment we start taking it too far in a knee jerk reaction after hearing that "Our safety's in danger!" is the path to $18,000 balance boards.

Re:"Not for ________ use" (4, Insightful)

vlm (69642) | more than 4 years ago | (#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...

Because they can. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30802052)

That's part of it, but much of the "cost" is the fact that they can charge that much because it's medical. In other words, they charge that much because they can.

Re:"Not for ________ use" (2, Insightful)

snowgirl (978879) | more than 4 years ago | (#30802066)

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 value of the device, and if they need it. Thus, the economic model for them requires pushing affordability to ensure that the out-of-pocket person will actually pay.

This is equally visible in the medical fields actually. Cosmetic breast augmentation costs about $8,000 in my area, while just an x-ray and CT-scan at an ER is about $5,000. Compare that. Full general anesthesia, operating room, surgical expertise, and recovery costs as much as two tests with medical equipment, and comparatively little expertise. Why such a little price difference between the two, considering the vast gap in service? The cosmetic surgeon has to get patients to pay out-of-pocket... thus, the cost has to be something someone can generally afford, or they would never get business.

The important thing to remember here is that the people building these medical devices, by free market factors are charging as much as they can get away with charging. If medical facilities pay $18,000 for these items, then that is what they're going to charge, regardless of the costs put into it.

Medical insanity (2, Insightful)

syousef (465911) | more than 4 years ago | (#30802096)

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 to stand up and defend this insanity. With these sorts of controls, many, many patients go without treatment, or worse go for alternative Voodoo treatment that do harm because they simply can't afford the real thing. It's a sure sign that the medical system is itself quite ill and probably clinically insane.

What needs to happen is companies need to be held accountable for gross negligence and willful malice, but permitted to release a medical device with a disclaimer about the level of testing that has been done. If the overhead for adhering to medical standards is literally an 180 fold increase in the price, clearly there is something very wrong with the efficiency of the system.

Re:"Not for ________ use" (1)

NonSequor (230139) | more than 4 years ago | (#30802264)

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:"Not for ________ use" (1)

budgenator (254554) | more than 4 years ago | (#30802330)

Another huge cost is Good manufacturing practice [wikipedia.org] , I looked into making medical devices [fda.gov] in my dental lab and the effort involved in just the paperwork was 3 times the effort to actually make the device. Everything has to be documented, every lot number, every expiration date for the materials used and which went into which device, who did what and how, what their training was and the documentation had to be maintained for 2 years or the expected life of the device. This is a killer for small facilities.

Post last (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30801528)

Nothing to see here [goatse.fr]

Surfy (1)

Juln (41313) | more than 4 years ago | (#30801532)

It says a lot about the wastefulness of institutions when it comes to buying hardware. I bet you the Defense Department could find lots of savings by sourcing their parts from Nintendo, too!

Re:Surfy (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 4 years ago | (#30801736)

It says a lot about the wastefulness of institutions when it comes to buying hardware. I bet you the Defense Department could find lots of savings by sourcing their parts from Nintendo, too!

Wasn't there something recently about PS3s being used for a high performance computing setup by the US airforce?

What have we here? (4, Insightful)

tonycheese (921278) | more than 4 years ago | (#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.

Re:What have we here? (1)

LostCluster (625375) | more than 4 years ago | (#30801616)

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.

Re:What have we here? (4, Interesting)

chuckymonkey (1059244) | more than 4 years ago | (#30801674)

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:What have we here? (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30801794)

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 checked how accurate the balance board is. All I know is that $4k buys you a platform that has ~0.5mm accuracy for center of pressure across its surface of roughly 1/4 m^2. The resolution is better than that, of course.

OTOH, I'm going out and buying the darn balance board right about now :)

Re:What have we here? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30801846)

This just in: economies of scale not a myth.

Re:What have we here? (1)

Kjella (173770) | more than 4 years ago | (#30801968)

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 tired of the same old things anyway and it was well worth the money as long as it lasted.

Re:What have we here? (3, Funny)

tenverras (855530) | more than 4 years ago | (#30802034)

The Wii Balance Board is the Canada of medical devices. Cheap, but just as effective as its expensive counterparts

Re:What have we here? (4, Insightful)

lanner (107308) | more than 4 years ago | (#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 (5, Funny)

Naurgrim (516378) | more than 4 years ago | (#30801566)

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 (2, Insightful)

ArchieBunker (132337) | more than 4 years ago | (#30801568)

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

Re:No wonder (1)

LostCluster (625375) | more than 4 years ago | (#30801584)

People have been clamoring for years about "Health Reform" and "Tort Reform" without realizing those issues are linked.

Re:No wonder (2, Insightful)

jedidiah (1196) | more than 4 years ago | (#30801734)

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 numbers they're creating.

Education reform would be more effective really.

"Health Reform" and "Tort Reform" are not really related. Although both are
portrayed as a solution to a problem that neither directly addresses.

Letting insurance companies off the hook hasn't lowered prices. Neither does
turning insulating the customer from the cost of health care. Ads that tell
selfish old geezers that they can get an overpriced motorized wheelchair
"for free" is what keeps health care costs high. Young kids being duped into
thinking that their doctor visits are "for free" is what keeps health costs
high.

So does ensuring that devices are adequately tested.

The LOC price for something used in air traffic control or avionics is probably similarly expensive.

Re:No wonder (1)

amRadioHed (463061) | more than 4 years ago | (#30801800)

Since when do juries get to determine penalties? I thought they were just charged with determining guilt.

Re:No wonder (1)

RobertLTux (260313) | more than 4 years ago | (#30802374)

a jury may not have the input of Guilty of %charges% and the fine is US$XXX,0000 but
the judge who does determine the fine has to take the guilty verdicts and then total up a list
primary charges: X,000 each
with will full rider: Y,000 each
secondary charges: Z,000 each
with will full rider: W,000 each

then you get into bonus money for conduct during the trial and the judge being in a bad mood (or just not liking your lawyer) but before that step the judge is totalling up what the jury says

Re:No wonder (1)

LostCluster (625375) | more than 4 years ago | (#30801818)

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 (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 4 years ago | (#30801924)

I don't have any problems with rationalizing medical liability, but the savings aren't all that likely to amount to much (the article references a CBO study):

http://www.factcheck.org/2009/10/malpractice-savings-reconsidered/ [factcheck.org]

Now, find 20 ways to save 0.5% of medical costs and you are getting somewhere, but this single issue isn't going to solve the whole thing.

Re:No wonder (1)

snowgirl (978879) | more than 4 years ago | (#30802172)

I don't have any problems with rationalizing medical liability, but the savings aren't all that likely to amount to much (the article references a CBO study):

http://www.factcheck.org/2009/10/malpractice-savings-reconsidered/ [factcheck.org]

Now, find 20 ways to save 0.5% of medical costs and you are getting somewhere, but this single issue isn't going to solve the whole thing.

It can vary some based on the field the doctor is practicing. There are some surgeries, where malpractice is so crazy high, because the insurance companies are afraid to defend the people performing the surgery. (This sentence should be read: the insurance companies anticipate big losses by covering the surgeons.)

"Tort reform" covers only one part of the hysterical increase in malpractice insurance. That insurance companies see it as a non-lucrative business to be in, means that they demand higher premiums to ensure that they meet their desired profit margins. If these insurance companies were run as co-ops where the premiums were collectively held as a non-profit to pay out for doctors without generating a profit for shareholders, then the malpractice premiums would not exceed what is actually paid out.

If you think medical insurance for the consumer sucks, the malpractice insurance does the same exact stuff. Insurance companies want to shaft everyone in the equation. If they mark a particular surgery as "experimental" then not only does the medical insurance for the patient not have to pay, but the malpractice insurance doesn't have to cover it... or the malpractice premium for it goes up, and the doctor has to replace the cost by putting the cost onto the consumer, thus raising the price.

I think any insurance company running for-profit is a generally bad idea... they will always be driven to deny claims, raise rates, and add no real to the benefit of the consumer (beyond what a non-profit insurance company would provide) except an extra middle-man, or two, or three.

Re:No wonder (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 4 years ago | (#30802344)

If they aren't providing value beyond what a not for profit provides, the latter's tax advantages should allow them to put the for profit out of business (that's in theory land, but the point is that the for profit company may be bringing something that you aren't accounting for).

If you look at a big insurer like Wellpoint (which is probably middle of the road as far as behavior goes, maybe a bit towards the nasty), they are still only scraping ~6% off the top (That is operating margin, profit margin is just under 4%). So it isn't obvious to me that the profit motive of the insurance companies is responsible for that big a chunk of the costs (again, 6% is substantial, but getting rid of it isn't going to revolutionize anything).

I suspect the core issues are that people are disconnected from the costs and that medical care is simply expensive. The U.S. often gets compared to countries with socialized medicine, those countries deal with the disconnection from costs either by placing small fees on services, or by establishing standards to deliver care where it is 'most needed', so they get better results per dollar than the U.S., where care is delivered to anybody able to pay for it, with only some regard for whether it is needed.

Re:No wonder (4, Interesting)

Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) | more than 4 years ago | (#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]

Re:No wonder (1)

RyuuzakiTetsuya (195424) | more than 4 years ago | (#30802384)

I think it was Blanche Lincoln who made a similar observation about Nebraska. They brought in Tort Reform, and nothing changed for the price of medical.

Quite frankly, i don't think that this is where entrepreneurs should be trying to find profits. If it's illegal for the Mob to extort you for "protection" money, because you know, this is a good lookin' house you got here and it'd be a same if anything happened to it, it should be illegal for the medical system to do the exact same thing. Except I trust the mobsters not to shiv me in the ribs if I play nice and make payments, Aetna? not so much.

Re:No wonder (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30801998)

I'd agree with you to an extent if the only issue in tort was verdicts directly. The problem is the secondary issue of the rare insane verdict scaring those sued into settling cases they would likely win, or that the legal process becomes so protracted that it is not financially viable to fight the suit, prompting people to settle. While this is a rational decision in isolation, the broader pattern of this encourages marginal lawsuits. That also leaves aside the court of public opinion which can just as easily ruin your business - who wants to go to a doctor that is under malpractice litigation? How much income is lost by being on leave during the lawsuit?

Tort transfers wealth, it does not create it and should be reformed. Not necessarily restrictions on standing/rewards, but simply modernizing it so that it is more efficient in carrying out justice.

Re:No wonder (1)

tomhath (637240) | more than 4 years ago | (#30802120)

"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]

When your time comes (1)

westlake (615356) | more than 4 years ago | (#30802274)

Ads that tell selfish old geezers that they can get an overpriced motorized wheelchair "for free" is what keeps health care costs high.

That selfish old geezer who now has mobility can continue to live at home.

Where he will remain more active and engaged. Healthier. Less dependent on others.

That saves the system a lot of money.

Have you priced the nursing home bed or "assisted living" for your parents or grandparents?

Young kids being duped into thinking that their doctor visits are "for free" is what keeps health costs high.

Keeping kids healthy keeps health costs low.

Re:No wonder (1)

ArmagedionTime (1647309) | more than 4 years ago | (#30801668)

Keep in mind that medical devices must pass through a stringent approval process. The time and effort needed to be approved have to be factored into the price.

Re:No wonder (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30801836)

Oh ,there is much more to it than that...

A friend of mine recently had to wear a device that helps bones knit faster by using electromagnetic fields. The device cost (his insurance) $5000. I am an electrical engineer, so I couldn't resist tearing it apart to see what it was. Maybe, maybe, $20 worth of electronics. More likely $5 when manufactured with coolie labor in China.

And the reason my friend was willing to let me tear it apart? It can only be used once! It is designed to permanently disable itself after one period of treatment.

What a waste of time and resources. What a gouge to the medical consumer. You wanna talk about controlling health cost? Start here.

the true test of your talents (1)

RobertLTux (260313) | more than 4 years ago | (#30802406)

did you figure out what frys itself after one use so that you could maybe replace it??

Re:No wonder (1)

arb phd slp (1144717) | more than 4 years ago | (#30801722)

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?

Re:No wonder (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 4 years ago | (#30802062)

How do you propose to make health care anything other than "a commodity that you have to buy from someone"?

Even countries with guaranteed health care pay the people who work in health facilities and the companies that produce health products.

False comparisons (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30801586)

These "test platforms" are not just a slab of plastic a few inches in size: they are usually about two feet or more square, can handle up to 400 pounds of static force (and often a ton or more impact for jumping), and more importantly, come with a full diagnostic software package that can track patient history and results. Show me ANY medical office outfit that can develop this level of software for $18,000 or less, let alone support it, and hack up the proper interface to the WII board.

Re:False comparisons (1)

jedidiah (1196) | more than 4 years ago | (#30801764)

Tracking patient history and results?

Sounds like the sort of thing a beginning PHP programmer can knock out in a few hours.

Re:False comparisons (1)

LostCluster (625375) | more than 4 years ago | (#30801838)

Yep... but what PHP programmer will actually take the job when legal tells them of the risk if their program has a simple bug?

Re:False comparisons (1)

FrancoisHarvey (1679178) | more than 4 years ago | (#30802080)

Yep, but beginner coder don't know a thing about HIPPA and how to deal with auditing and storing confidential patient history.

Price-gouging (2, Interesting)

GreatBunzinni (642500) | more than 4 years ago | (#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.

Re:Price-gouging (1)

LostCluster (625375) | more than 4 years ago | (#30801706)

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.

Re:Price-gouging (1)

Quantumstate (1295210) | more than 4 years ago | (#30801958)

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.

Re:Price-gouging (1)

LostCluster (625375) | more than 4 years ago | (#30802082)

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

Re:Price-gouging (1)

Theodore (13524) | more than 4 years ago | (#30801762)

STOP!

Medical/Hospital grade equipment is tested, and logged, and tested, and logged, and probably tested again just for logging purposes.

Look at a mobile computer unit in an ER and chances are the chassis alone cost at least $5K, just due to certifications.

Ever been in a hospital bed?
And then used the remote to raise the head? lower the feet? call the nurse?
I've seen records going back to the mid-seventies on some units, where they measure down to the milliamp along various points on the chassis; all to ensure patient safety.
It is not bullshit, it's just that the medical community has certain standards that we MUST adhere to, and console makers don't.

Re:Price-gouging (1)

shaggykl (187717) | more than 4 years ago | (#30802006)

Another factor is the volume of products produced and sold. Nintendo probably spent as much or more to design their product than the medical device company. But they are able to divide that cost by 10s of thousands (or more) of products sold as opposed to several hundred of the high-priced systems.

Re:Price-gouging (1)

ColdWetDog (752185) | more than 4 years ago | (#30802084)

Medical/Hospital grade equipment is tested, and logged, and tested, and logged, and probably tested again just for logging purposes.

True enough, it doesn't cause $18,000 to log things. Not every device used in patient care needs to be tested to the extent that 'medical devices' do. Mostly, it's simple patient safety stuff (no current leakage, etc.)

Look at a mobile computer unit in an ER and chances are the chassis alone cost at least $5K, just due to certifications.

BS. The one I just used is a stock Dell POS on a home made COW cart (Computer on Wheels). The laptop has a little sticker stating it passed biomed's safety test. That's it. But it's not a medical device. Just a laptop.

Ever been in a hospital bed?

And then used the remote to raise the head? lower the feet? call the nurse?

I've seen records going back to the mid-seventies on some units, where they measure down to the milliamp along various points on the chassis; all to ensure patient safety.

If you actually disassemble those things you find a bunch of switches and a PCB board. Made to reasonable specs (essentially has to be waterproof and have a decent level of physical construction) but nothing as well made, as say, avionics. Remember, these devices don't GO INSIDE people, nor are they intended to cure or diagnose. Therefore, they don't have to be particularly sophisticated or well made.

Stuff that goes inside you (implantable things), diagnostic gear, radiation stuff - all that has to undergo much more rigorous testing which does cost more. Not nearly as much as the vendors charge - there is quite a bit of inflation surrounding medical grade gear, but it's pretty clearly a rip off in order to make as much money as fast as possible. It's a business and pretty much bullshit, but there you have it. The American Way.

Price has a psychological impact too. (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#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 (3, Insightful)

jlb.think (1719718) | more than 4 years ago | (#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.

This is not a shock... (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#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.

Re:This is not a shock... (4, Insightful)

Big Boss (7354) | more than 4 years ago | (#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.

Re:This is not a shock... (1)

tresho (1000127) | more than 4 years ago | (#30802154)

I've seen similar price differences in the same retail outlet, the only difference being whether or not an item was covered by Medicare. I needed to buy a portable wheelchair for my mother to use occasionally. The store marketed chairs for $120 to people whose chairs were not paid for by Medicare, and then chairs for $500 for people whose chairs were paid for by Medicare. The more expensive chairs looked better, but were not functionally different.

Eyetoy (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30801844)

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? (3, Informative)

edelbrp (62429) | more than 4 years ago | (#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? (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#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!

Wii Fit vs Wii Fit Plus (1, Redundant)

LostCluster (625375) | more than 4 years ago | (#30801910)

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.

duh... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30802060)

I can build you 100 medical test platforms at 18000 a piece or 18000 wii balance boards at a 100 a piece...

A plan to cheapen health care... (1)

marciot (598356) | more than 4 years ago | (#30802168)

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.

Price is in the "too small for insurance" range (1)

RobertLTux (260313) | more than 4 years ago | (#30802178)

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.

Economies of Scale (2, Insightful)

burritozine (1573883) | more than 4 years ago | (#30802284)

Everyone has rightly pointed out that the cost of this sort of device is inflated by regulatory headaches and liability concerns. Let's not forget simple economies of scale here. A video game controller will likely sell millions if not tens of millions of units before it's eventually retired from the market. A medical balance board, on the other hand, is at best a niche device whose sales will likely be at least an order of magnitude (or two!) smaller. The costs of designing, testing and building this device are borne by a comparatively tiny number of sales, hence the higher price.

Medicare won't pay for Wii because of dual purpose (2, Insightful)

aspelling (610672) | more than 4 years ago | (#30802324)

Medicare and many insurance companies won't pay for Wii because it is dual-purpose device
NYTimes had a story when they refused to pay for iPhone-based speech synthesizer for a paralyzed patient but had no problems paying $5000 for a desktop based one because the desktop-based device was not able to do anything but synthesize voice
 

But can they use it? (2, Insightful)

POds (241854) | more than 4 years ago | (#30802392)

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.

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