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When cell phones become medical devices

When cell phones become medical devicesThe definition of "medical device" is shifting, quickly and dramatically.

The revised MDD now includes stand-alone software in the definition. In other words, if software has a medical purpose, it probably can/must be CE marked.

And smart phones are quickly becoming the conduit of choice for collecting and researching, disseminating, and evaluating clinical data.

As Bob on Medical Device Software points out, its unique user interface, display, and broadband capabilities make the Apple iPhone a particularly attractive platform for medical applications. For example, the AirStrip OBSERVER suite of applications is custom-designed for the iPhone, makes some components available for download at the Apple App Store, and received FDA clearance for some modalities.

While most medical apps fall into the reference category, applications are getting more sophisticated and are taking advantage of the devices networking abilities. A trio of applications developed by researchers at the University of Utah aptly demonstrate these advances.

Another factor is the appeal and widespread use of these devices. The Wall Street Journal reports [login required] today that 64% of U.S. physicians are using smart phones.

There are several big questions and unknowns hanging over these developments: First and foremost, there is the question of data security. As quoted in the same WSJ article, Deborah Peel of Patient Privacy Rights worries that "the vast majority of health information technology has not been designed to ensure that patients control access to that data and use of that data". So, paradoxically, the more ways that doctors can access patients' records, the more their confidentiality is threatened.

Second, what is the quality threshold for smart phone applications? Just because something is on the iPhone doesn't mean it's necessarily a quality application.

Regulators around the world are bound to tackle these questions. FDA, for instance, is already looking at this issue and sooner or later will regulate certain phones. It's certainly not the end of the world to be classified as a medical device, but verification and validation of these applications won't be easy.

As these applications get developed and become part of a networked medical device, language will also become an issue again. Translation service providers will need to become familiar with smart phone development and localization issues and support consistently translated content across multiple platforms and media.

Like it or not, we live in interesting times...

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1 Comment:

  1. צביה Tzviya said...
    Very interesting. Thank you.

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