MD&M West, the most anticipated medtech event of the year, will take place February 11–14 in Anaheim, CA. With an exposition featuring world-class suppliers, medtech professionals worldwide will come together, sharing best practices and innovative ways to transform the future of medical devices. This year’s conference program features a brand new slate of sessions curated around each stage of the product development cycle. Industry experts, innovators, and entrepreneurs will address topics in design and prototyping, validation, testing, trials, regulatory submissions and approvals, and postmarket compliance and production.
This year MD&M West is also expanding its agenda with the addition of a selection of Medtech Innovate Seminars. The seminars consist of eight interactive learning forums, each delivered in a two-hour format, designed to inform attendees of the latest developments and technological innovations shaping the medtech industry. Seminars include “Design of Implantable Devices,” “Bioresorbable Polymers,” “Innovations in Orthopedic Devices,” “Developing Medical Mobile Apps,” “Microelectronics and Sensors,” “Innovations in Cardio Devices,” “Power Source Technologies,” and “Wireless Medical Devices.”
Jung-ik Suh of Agilent Technologies will chair the February 13 Wireless Medical Devices seminar. Suh is the marketing manager of the Electronics Measurement Group of Agilent, a manufacturer of analytical instrumentation that focuses on testing and measurement. Suh, who began his career at Hewlett Packard in 1997, has more than 15 years of experience working in the realm of wireless technology and has published numerous articles on the subject. The wireless seminars are designed to give attendees an overview of how wireless technology is shaping medical devices today and how it will affect them in the future. Speakers will discuss the process of bringing wireless-enabled medical devices to market, the challenges faced by device manufacturers in doing this, and how these challenges can be overcome.
“Wireless technology has changed a lot of people’s lives and has even saved lives,” Suh says. “Now wireless technology has moved to medical devices. Wireless sensing has allowed us to see more than we could than wired sensors. Wireless sensors on your body can help doctors and hospital staff better monitor patients. Many people who want to be healthy are using wireless technologies to monitor themselves for fitness purposes.” He also cites the cost benefits of wireless medical devices. “You allow for seamless communication from machine to machine or even machine to person. Using wireless technology has [helped] reduce hospital and medical device costs.”
For device manufacturers looking to get into this field, Suh sees several challenges that must be addressed. In addition to technical challenges, there are also regulatory hurdles to clear. “We have the FCC and FDA in the U.S., but if you look at the international market, China has its own regulations, Korea has its own regulations, and European countries have their own,” Suh says. “So one of the biggest challenges for the medical device developer is how to meet all these various regulations.”
On the technical side, Suh says radio frequency (RF) interference can present issues in designing wireless medical devices, as can electromagnetic interference (EMI) and electromagnetic compatibility (EMC). “Almost all headphones and smartphones today have an automatic connection to Bluetooth or sometimes wireless LAN, even if the user doesn’t recognize it.” The concern is that someone could bring a device like this into, say, a hospital environment and create interference. That could potentially harm a patient if a medical device starts working incorrectly. Designers must also choose among various types of wireless technologies—from commercialized ones, such as Bluetooth, wireless LAN, and 4G, to lesser known but still effective ones such as near-field communication (NFC). Understanding how these signals relate to and can interfere with each other and which may be best for a particular type of device or system also becomes a challenge.
“There are so many wireless radio technologies that can be applied into the medical device area,” Suh says. “Such a broad selection of technology is something [manufacturers] need to address.” Though wireless LAN and Bluetooth technology are the top wireless technologies used by medical device manufacturers today, there are many other options designers can choose from depending on the needs of their devices, he says.
When it comes to implantable wireless devices in particular, battery life and battery drain is another important technical issue—one Suh plans to focus on in his opening presentation. “If a battery goes down in an in-body device or in an emergency situation, it can be a critical issue.”
The “Wireless Medical Devices” seminar will also feature Ken Fuchs
, senior principal architect for enterprise systems for Chinabased device manufacturer Mindray, who will be speaking on many of these issues in his talk, “Using Risk Management to Successfully Deploy Wireless Medical Devices.” Philips Healthcare chief wireless architect Phil Raymond will cover more technical aspects of wireless technologies in “Medical Device Integration Using Current 802.11 Wireless Infrastructures in the Unlicensed RF Band.” Finally, Stacey Chang, director of the healthcare practice at IDEO, will give a presentation titled “Preparing Your Wireless Medical Device System for Operating in Real-World Acute Care Environments.” In addition, speakers will present two case studies detailing wireless applications—covering design, functionality, testing, security and compliance.
While manufacturers of wireless devices have a lot on their plate to consider, Suh is confident MD&M West attendees will leave his seminar with a strong understanding of how to overcome these challenges in their own devices.
(Editor's Note: Jung-ik Suh will be introducing and chairing the seminar on Wireless Medical Devices at the upcoming MD&M West trade show and conference. Join him and other wireless technology experts February 11-14, in Anaheim, CA. Registration for MD&M West is now open)
—Chris Wiltz is the Associate Editor of MD+DI