From the August 2017 issue of HealthCare Business News magazine
By Barry Skirble
It is estimated that 5 billion devices are connected to the Internet.
A number of these devices have sensors that collect machine-level data and forward that data to service and development organizations throughout the globe. Airlines, railroads and even elevator organizations now collect data and alerts that ensure maximum “uptime” of scheduled operations and make all of our lives a bit easier. These companies use deep learning systems like IBM Watson to predict the failure of the parts in their systems.
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The radiology medical device industry has joined the party with smart connected devices. In the radiology suite there are several smart connected medical devices including scanners, injectors and digital radiography equipment. These smart connected devices are in use 24/7 and downtime can impact life-saving diagnosis and the important monitoring of medical treatment for a particular disease or medical condition. The smart connected device not only provides important information for hospital records in other systems, but also can be monitored by the device manufacturer to proactively and predictably identify and fix issues before they cause the medical device to stop working, and therefore, the health care facility to stop treating patients.
You could imagine that a contrast injector in the radiology suite that does 10 to 15 injections per day begins reporting that the motor current is at a high level. This is not an immediate problem for the contrast injector. However, as time goes on, the motor may fail causing a field service engineer (FSE) to be dispatched to the site. If the motor fails, a scan could be interrupted and patient procedures would require rescheduling while the contrast injector is down for four hours or more while the FSE travels to the site and then troubleshoots and fixes the problem.
With a smart connected medical device, an alert would be sent to the technical assistance center where it will be triaged and reviewed. The alert would contain information needed to identify the issue, the parts needed and how long until the device would fail. The FSE can now proactively support the radiology suite operations, scheduling a time to go on-site and replace the parts before the device fails with little to no downtime for the facility, interruption of a procedure or need to reschedule multiple patient scans.
‘Design for Service’
For smart connected medical devices to become a reality, the medical device manufacturer must begin to think differently. “Design for Service” no longer means making the device easy to repair and maintain by the FSEs, but now design engineering includes ensuring that devices such as contrast injectors are smart connected devices. For remote device service, the design must include provisions for collecting machine level data such as:
• Motor usage.
• Battery usage.
• Sensors in the system (air detectors, pressure detectors).
• Printed circuit board monitoring.
• Number of uses of the system.