Health technologies include medicines, medical devices, assistive technologies, techniques and procedures developed to solve health problems and improve the quality of life. Such technologies are used in all types of health facilities, play a major role in contemporary health care systems and contribute directly to the quality of patient care. However, their use needs to be complemented by good staff training and effective organization of health services where application is sought.
Medical devices contribute to the attainment of the highest standards of health for individuals. Without medical devices, common medical procedures – from bandaging a sprained ankle, to diagnosing HIV/AIDS, implanting an artificial hip or any surgical intervention – would not be possible. Medical devices are used in many diverse settings, for example, by laypersons at home, by paramedical staff and clinicians in remote clinics, by opticians and dentists and by health-care professionals in advanced medical facilities, for prevention and screening and in palliative care. Such health technologies are used to diagnose illness, to monitor treatments, to assist disabled people and to intervene and treat illnesses, both acute and chronic. Today there are an estimated 2 million different kinds of medical devices on the world market, categorized into more than 22 000 generic devices groups. Decisions on selecting medical equipment for a health care facility must be supported by evidence and based on clinical needs, financial resources and the local capacity for effective use.