I suppose it might depend on who is holding the patent application and why it was sumitted.
If it was originally developed as part of an ME class, like the article mentioned, there's a good chance the application was submitted by MIT. MIT understands patents and licensing quite well and has a habit of patenting everything
they come up with.
As to why, it could also have been filed as a defensive measure like the FSF does with software. And yes, FSF holds software patents even though they are very much opposed to the entire notion of software patents.
If something like this device ever hopes to see the light of day it's going to need something heavy behind it. Otherwise the "big medicine" companies will either attempt to obtain it - or litigate it out of existence if they can't.
Patents aren't necessarily a bad thing in the world of medical devices. You need to have one to make a lot of money. But you'll need one even more for something that will either be sold cheaply or given away.
"I am not cynical. I'm a realist." as the old joke goes.