May 17, 2020

FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb releases statement regarding the safety of medical devices

Health technology
medical devices
patient safety
Catherine Sturman
4 min
medical devices (Getty Images)
The release of new medical devices has been embraced by the healthcare industry, but the tools have also introduced a number of risks which have yet to...

The release of new medical devices has been embraced by the healthcare industry, but the tools have also introduced a number of risks which have yet to be addressed.

Last year, the FDA approved a record number of novel devices in the US, reflecting an advancing pace of innovation. One such example is the first artificial pancreas and the first blood test to evaluate traumatic brain injury.

Whilst the FDA continues to play a key role in driving innovation and tackling the essential need for regulation, FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb has released a statement covering a wide range of areas.

“My colleagues in the FDA’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health (CDRH), led by Dr. Jeffrey Shuren, have been advancing new policies to drive innovation in medical product development by taking novel approaches to regulation, including the use of real world evidence to support iterative improvements in device performance and establishing a balanced framework for digital health devices that improves the lives of patients,” he said.

“Although medical devices provide great benefits to patients, they also present risks. And we are focusing equal attention on advancing new frameworks for identifying risks and protecting consumers.”

By prioritising its approach to medical device safety, the FDA continues to work closely with patients, providers, and device developers to improve new technologies which are entering the market.

The FDA has subsequently released the Medical Device Safety Action Plan: Protecting Patients, Promoting Public Health, explaining how the organisation will further its programmes and processes and new technologies will provide capabilities which bring added assurances of safety.

The action plan will encompass five key areas:

  1. The establishment of a robust medical device patient safety net;
  2. Regulatory options to streamline and modernise timely implementation of post market; mitigations;
  3. Spur innovation towards safer medical devices;
  4. Advance medical device cybersecurity;
  5. Integrate CDRH’s premarket and post market offices and activities to advance the use of a Total Product Life Cycle (TPLC) approach to device safety.

“Our aim is to ensure not only that devices meet the gold standard for getting to market, but also that they continue to meet this standard as we get more data about devices and learn more about their benefit-risk profile in real world clinical settings,” Gottlieb added.

By providing additional training and education, new regulations will be put in place. To spur innovation, the FDA’s Breakthrough Device Programme will address unmet medical needs to facilitate patient access and improve patient safety.

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 “In the coming months, we’ll also look at how we can focus more of our regulatory science activities on safety innovation, with the aim towards developing scientific toolkits to be used premarket, so that developers can better assure that their devices are meeting our standards for safety,” says Gottlieb.

“To help support developers who are pursuing safer devices, we’re exploring ways to permit more streamlined pathways for comparative safety claims as a way to spur competition on improving features related to a device’s safety profile.

We have issued new draft guidance on a voluntary, more modern 510(k) pathway for moderate risk devices to more efficiently demonstrate safety and effectiveness and the opportunity for device makers to demonstrate their products are safer than other technologies on the market.”

Continuing its work with the National Evaluation System for health Technology (NEST), the FDA will facilitate the ongoing detection of potential safety risks, and The Action Plan illustrates how the organisation will support the development of NEST.

Furthermore, as part of the Action Plan, the FDA is establishing the Women’s Health Technologies Strategically Coordinated Registry Network (CRN) to provide more complete evidence in clinical areas which are unique to women.

“Finally, I want to highlight another important issue we’re staying on top of related to device safety:  cybersecurity. Like computers and the networks they operate in, medical devices can be vulnerable to security breaches. Exploitation of device vulnerabilities could threaten the health and safety of patients,” noted Gottlieb.

“We’ve already taken several steps to promote a multi-stakeholder, multi-faceted approach of vigilance, responsiveness, recovery, and resilience that applies throughout the life cycle of relevant devices.

As part of the Action Plan, we’re seeking additional authorities and funding for Congress to consider, which would build on our work to date and further minimise medical device cybersecurity vulnerabilities and exploits.

We also intend to seek the authority and funding to develop a CyberMed Safety (Expert) Analysis Board, a public-private partnership that would complement existing device vulnerability coordination and response mechanisms and serve as a resource for device makers and the agency.

Medical device safety is a key priority for the FDA. We’re committed to protecting American patients by minimising avoidable risks and advancing device technologies that are delivering growing benefits.”

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May 13, 2021

Birdie aims to reinvent elderly care with tech

3 min
We take a look at homecare software startup Birdie, who are aiming to transform elderly care in the UK

British startup Birdie has announced it has raised £8.2 million to invest in innovation and scale up the business. 

The company's announcement is timely as it follows the criticism of the UK government over their lack of a plan for social care, despite acknowledging the sector is in crisis - around a quarter of the UK's home care providers are on the brink of bankruptcy due to a lack of funds and staffing. 

Birdie was born with a mission to  "radically improve the lives of millions of older adults", by using app-based solutions, IoT and machine learning to put preventative care at the forefront.  The company was founded by Max Parmentier,  after experiencing his own frustrations with the care system - his grandfather struggled with the impact of life in a care home, but lacked any other option. 

In 2017 Parmentier partnered with venture builder Kamet Ventures to  set up Birdie, in a bid to fix this problem. Since then, Birdie has partnered with almost 500 providers across the UK, and supports more than 20,000 older people every week. In the past 12 months alone the number of people Birdie supports has got six times greater. 

Birdie’s solution is an app to help care providers deliver more coordinated, personalised and preventative care, by giving them access to digital assessments, medication scheduling and planning tools. By using digital tools to take care of admin, staff have more time to spend with their care recipients. 

The new investment will be used to fund Birdie’s next phase of growth in the UK, as the company scales to meet the rapidly growing demand of the aging population. The company will also invest in product innovation, creating new features to address customer requests.

In addition, Birdie is piloting new care models, including partnering with the NHS to identify COVID-19 symptoms, building predictive pharmacy models with AI, and helping health authorities to detect early warning signs of patients’ health risks.

Internally, Birdie is committed to having a progressive company ethos. All salaries are transparent, and staff work asynchronously to maximise flexibility and equity. Staff members also volunteer in their local community during office hours, and the company offsets all its emissions.

These efforts have led to numerous awards, including having the best SME culture in the UK, an Honorable Mention in the Health category of Fast Company’s 2021 World Changing Ideas Awards, and innovation in care at the LangBuisson awards. 

“We believe the future of care for older people should be helping them to live at home for as long as possible through the delivery of personalised and preventative care" Parmentier said. 

"Birdie is already the partner of choice for caregivers up and down the UK, and this new funding will help us rapidly increase the number we partner with and what we can offer them - meaning more people benefiting from more affordable, quality care. We’re proud of our mission and the values we embody to pursue it.” 

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