They are similar in one way. Each must perform to very high standards. After all, to some people, baseball can be life and death.
“We’re supposed to be perfect our first day on the job and then show constant improvement,” major league umpire Ed Vargo once said of his profession.
The same could be said of medical devices. By their very nature, these products have to be pretty close to perfect when they reach the market. But device makers can’t stop there. Sometimes it’s better to concentrate on improving existing products than to come up with new ones.
A recent case highlights this. Last month, the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations expressed concern about how tubes and catheters are connected to patients. To date, nine cases involving tubing misconnections have been reported to the organization. Eight deaths and one case of permanent loss of function have occurred.
Many of the cases involved luer connectors, which enable functionally dissimilar tubes or catheters to be connected. In an effort to prevent such errors, the commission challenged manufacturers to redesign these devices in ways that will make misconnections much less likely.
More often, devices do not have inherent dangers. But their makers should continually monitor them, looking for ways to modify them, thus improving healthcare.
Examples of products that have been improved can be seen in some of this year’s Medical Design Excellence Award (MDEA) winners. One such device is a nebulizer used for treating asthma and other diseases. Although previous versions were effective, they were bulky and slow to act. Administration of drugs took anywhere from 8 to 30 minutes.
By creating a new drug-delivery technique, Pari GmbH was able to reduce the administration time. Those 8 to 30 minutes have been reduced to only 15 to 20 breaths. The company also improved the product’s esthetics, designing audible sounds and lights to guide users through the procedure. And a special mouthpiece was created to position the device properly.
The adage, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” definitely does not apply to medical devices. There is always room for improvement.
And for more information on other MDEA winning products, turn to MPMN’s special feature, From Drawing Board to Design Excellence—Award-Winning Devices Conquer a Variety of Challenges.