Astero StarFish

Digital Health communication cost and deployability for medical devices 

StarFish engineers Sal Sanci, Dean Addison, Mike Sanders and Nigel Syrotuck explore the pros and cons of popular Digital Health communication technologies over a series of blogs on the subject.  This blog examines Digital Health communication technology cost and deployability for medical devices.

Cost and deployability.  It’s unlikely that the medical device sector is going to be big to drive connectivity technology. It’s simply too small when compared to the consumer market.  A rule of thumb is to capitalize on what the masses do for you.  Look to other industries to where things are getting massive adoption. It’s not digital health. It’s something else like gaming, automobiles, or telemetrics.

A perfect example of that is 60601 vs. 6950. If you use a consumer power supply, it’s going to be available, the performance is going to be well understood, and it’ll be cheap, but it’s not going to be 60601 compliant. You live in the medical space but try and capitalize on what the masses are doing in terms of development.

It makes total sense to follow the masses, but the industry is also trying to get reuse wherever it can.  The ISO/IEEE 11073 Health informatics – Medical / health device communication standards initiative looks at the relationship of consumer based technologies to medical devices, HL7, and all the other standards. Even though it’s great work, it’s not a standard that you can just jump on and get the benefit because those commercial technologies are still moving.  You are always playing a catch up game against it.

That’s a challenge when you are picking technologies.  Do I try to get as close to the front as possible? Do I try and follow the pack, or do I try and get close to the center?  It all comes back to the design goal. Do I need to conform to a standard, or do I need to look more future proof? The same thing happens when you buy a personal computer – more money for a more cutting edge technology that might not get adopted (i.e, HD-DVDs vs BluRay drives), or less money for a computer that may go obsolete too soon? Most of us try to strike a balance.

HL7 is about the integration of information into large systems.  If we look at a few recent attempts to capture and bring information together it’s quickly apparent that it’s going to be a long slog.  There are a lot of obstacles and a lot of entrenched players.  When Google pulls out of their health initiative, it’s very clear that this is not settled. It was disappointing they pulled out because they were in the best position to deal with the huge amount of data (I mean they are so good at it “Google” actually means to search through data!).

Data integration and long term data space. Opportunities lie in the value of specific data and the value of specific communications.   Especially where they give you a result you could not have before.  Take heart rate variability for example. Here we are monitoring something that is not of value in the immediate term, but can provide value when looking for patterns. In the short term you get the heart rate, but not the plethysmograph.  It’s fitness level, lifestyle, stop eating warnings that are likely to deliver value in the short term, but there is a whole bunch of other value in looking at the long term plethysmograph.

Saying “I’m HL7 integrated” is wonderful.  I’ll be there three years at one hospital and I have it working. But what value am I adding?  That’s why so many companies aim to have their Cloud connected device work on its own network.  Then you can take your data and email it to your doctor if you want. If it’s not a medical device they are ethically responsible not to look at it, but they will. The point is, what does the doctor want to see?  Define that and then work backwards.

Does this advice map to your experiences? If you are a medical device developer incorporating communications into your regulated device, please take our 2017 Digital Health Survey for Connected Medical Devices. You will receive a copy of the report and results will be widely shared with the medial device community.

Image: StarFish Medical

Astero StarFish is the attributed author of StarFish Medical team blogs.  We value teamwork and collaborate on all of our medical device development projects.

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