Choosing the right system software for medical devices By CIOReview Team

Choosing the right system software for medical devices

CIOReview Team | Friday, 17 February 2017, 06:47 IST

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Medical devices have a direct impact on human life and that leaves little room for error; this calls for identifying the right softwares that help in designing devices with maximum accuracy. Even though developers have the option to choose between a commercial off-the-shelf product or a real time operating system there is never an optimal solution that would be applicable to all devices. The purpose is to identify the parameters of the application and how it would interact when deployed on the hardware, which would prove helpful at the time of decision making.

The first step is to understand the designing needs for the device. How the device will be used? Who will use it? Is it being used to store data? Will it be battery based or wall powered? Is it a device with specific service modes where only a trained technician can use it? Is it a device that would have to follow a fixed charging cycle? Is it usable while it’s put on charge? The responses to these questions help in evaluating and choosing the most apt system software. In case of small devices that are supposed to be implantable, using a real time operating system is not a necessity, they would require only negligible real time operating capabilities to be able to identify and read sensors and provide minimal treatment. Other purposes of such devices could be to capture and store data in which case they would be equipped with low-power microcontrollers. However in case of devices which have Linux or Android as operating systems size is not the primary constraint, these devices are primarily used in order to function in near real time, identify signals and produce corresponding images. Now although not every device functions the same way but most of them would lie somewhere in between these two examples.

An understanding of the purpose of these medical devices needs to be aligned with the current situations in the sector. As technology grows professionals have multiple options to choose from and that makes it important for the device to be the most accurate amongst all its competition, also it’s important to identify that whether the product is just capable of doing the job or can a user with basic understanding of such a technology use it easily as well. All of this has to be done in consideration with cost effectiveness. This sector in itself has sky rocketing costs, so it has become a priority now to reduce the per capita cost of an individual’s healthcare with a more streamlined diagnosis, more innovative techniques for preventive care and with the emerging technologies identifying more cost effective methods for developing these devices.  Another factor to be considered here is that the average lifespan of men and women these days has slowly increased and that makes them more prone to diseases associated with aging. Technologies that can monitor, diagnose and treat these problems are now high in demand.

Taking all the above factors into consideration we can now list down what the basic considerations would be while evaluating and taking final decisions regarding system softwares for medical devices:

·   A Long ShelfLife-Medical devices that play a critical role in saving a human life need to have long shelf lives, be it a battery operated device or a wall powered device. A battery operated device should be able to work throughout its useful battery life without the need for a recharge, while a wall powered device should have the ability to function while getting charged as well.

·  Easy to Use HMI-It is preferable to not over complicate the GUI, a simple and intuitive GUI would be more convenient to use by a common man. Another aspect to be focussed on is that as soon as the device is started up it should instruct the user on how to use it; this should be done not just through audio but also through visuals so that any layman can easily understand the GUI of the device and help the patient.

·  Proper Communication- Once the incident has happened, this device would then send across a communication to the administrator with all the required data, and then the administrator would pass on this information to the doctor of the patient for them to review and suggest the next step. After all of this is done, the first responder would be provided with instructions on how he/she can restore the system in its original form, ready for use in the future.

·  Multiple CPU Design-A multiple CPU design would ensure efficiency and along with that provide an opportunity to utilise the available power in a more effective and innovative manner. Basically, there can be two processors put in place, one of these processors would be monitoring the health and the other would a high powered processor driving the interface.

However, there are a few additional factors that play a major role while choosing the right system software and can be taken into consideration:

·  Modular Architecture:Based on the changing requirements these medical devices should be able to adapt and evolve; they should have a core which is stable enough that other packages can be upgraded as per requirements without having to change the core. Having an architecture that is modular and upgradeable would ensure a longer life of the device and give the manufacturers a competitive edge

· Scalable Software- A scalable software would be able to meet the unique memory footprint,functionality, and processing power requirements of multipleproduct classes and in turn help the manufacturers to cut down cost by utilizing the availability of a larger scope and reduce the time to market for the product.

·  Security- Any system software should have the necessary security framework in order to protect against malware andunwanted or rogue applications. Since the threats to security evolve continuously so it is important to upgrade security system of these devices from time to time, so that any new threat can be identified and tackled immediately.

·  Connectivity-Medical devices are connected to the public network in order to perform a number of applications, which would mean that these devices need to support a number of standards and protocols of communication and at the same time showcase innovative networking capabilities.

·  Interactive User Interface-A key differentiating factor for these medical devices is their user interface. Easy to use interfaces which can support multiple monitors and has rich graphic designing tools are capabilities that are gradually gaining importance during decision making.

In the end we can conclude that needs and requirements may vary drastically and so can the functions, capabilities and features. However, while making the decision of what system software should or should not have it would be preferable to take all the options into consideration and then make a selection. We must not forget that at the end of the day a human life would depend on the device we create or use.

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