An Innovative Approach to Energy-Driven Medical Device Development

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In working with top medical device engineers from around the world, a consistent theme resonates among engineers who aren’t currently working on energy-driven devices:

I am not currently working on a device that is energy driven, but I see the road map and I know it is coming.

The resulting conversations with these engineers typically revolve around the development process for an energy-driven device, which usually follows this pattern:

  1. The company spends millions of dollars to develop a piece of capital equipment.
  2. Then, resources are funneled toward developing the distal end of the device.
  3. Finally, the company begins to ideate the interconnect solution that will tie the capital equipment to the device.

The purpose behind this discussion is to spur thinking about the whole picture prior to originating the development process.

In this blog post, we’ll talk about the value of approaching energy-driven medical device development with a holistic view of the entire system—from the capital equipment to the cables and components that connect it to the device itself.

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A recurring problem: Was your "medical" electrical connector actually designed for a fork truck?

When working on your last energy-driven medical device did you ask yourself: What was the origin of the connector we’re designing into our device?

Before continuing, stop and think about your device and ask yourself the following three questions:

  1. Does my device need the same features and construction as a connector that will be used in a heavy-duty equipment or a fork truck?
  2. Does my device need the same features and construction as a connector that will be used in a high-end automobile or commercial vehicle?
  3. Does my medical device need the same features and construction as a connector that will be used in a military or defense application?

Your answer was most likely no.

Not only no, but an emphatic NO!

Though this may never be a problem for you, at ATL, we’ve helped rework numerous devices that include an interconnect solution that was designed for a non-medical application—like a fork truck.

This is inefficient for many reasons, the two biggest being: performance and cost.

Performance

When you are designing a device, you are creating something for a specific medical application with unique requirements in mind.

None of those requirements have anything to do with fork trucks.

In order for your energy-driven device to function properly, you need to make sure that the interconnect solution you incorporate into your medical device delivers the required power from the capital equipment to the device itself.

Though industrial manufacturers produce very high-end connectors that work great for fork trucks and F-16s they don’t provide you the exact connector for your medical device needs.

And because of this, your device performance suffers.

Using a connector whose origin was intended for anything other than your medical device could prove detrimental to the long-term success and competitiveness of the device.

Cost

Considering the modern-day challenges of the medical device market and how they impact pricing (e.g., an aging population, healthcare spending, coverage and reimbursement, and the medical device tax), it is safe to say that your medical device, whether reusable or disposable will carry with it the constraint of cost.

To highlight how using an interconnect solution that was not designed for your device can impact cost, let’s compare the price of your medical device with the items listed in the three questions above.

The average price for a new fork truck runs between $20,000 and $50,000, the average price for a luxury car is around $55,000, and the cost of an F-16 is between $35 million and $40 million.

According to a report from the US National Library of Medicine, atrial fibrillation equipment costs range anywhere from $6,637 to $22,284—well below either of the applications listed above.

Can your medical device compete if it includes a connector that was developed and priced to be built into a fork truck, luxury car, or fighter jet?

Depending on the connector you choose, this is exactly what you are deciding to do.

If you’re contemplating whether or not a custom interconnect solution is more expensive than an off-the-shelf option, consider this: A custom interconnect solution is typically designed to have fewer components and fewer un-utilized features, so that it delivers exactly what you need.

This eliminates costs and ensures that the solution is right for your device.

The increasing demands of energy-driven medical devices.

As new medical devices continue to push the envelope, engineers are being asked to do more and more.

Whether the challenge is:

Engineers have tackled it head on to create the superior medical devices currently being used in the market today.

However…

These challenges and increasing demands have uncovered a need for a new way of approaching the energy-driven medical device development process.

A process that considers every piece of the device during design and development.

Improving the development of energy-driven minimally invasive surgery devices.

With the minimally invasive surgery device market shifting further toward energy-driven technology and robotics, approaching device development with an eye toward the interconnect solution is vital.

If you don’t incorporate the interconnect solution into the design of the device, you could face the problem of having to find an expensive, sub-optimal off-the-shelf connector and cable assembly to fit your device after-the-fact.

These sub-optimal connectors and cables have the potential to cause performance issues, such as loss of power or signal.

Developing your minimally invasive surgery device with the interconnect solution in mind helps prevent a scramble to find a connector or cable to fit the device and it helps mitigate the risks associated with using components that weren’t designed for your specific application.

Improving the development of energy-driven electrophysiology medical devices.

Given the nature of electrophysiology medical devices, the interconnect solution has always been considered a crucial element of the device itself—after all, these devices require power in order to properly work.

So why do so many electrophysiology device projects depend on post-hoc cable assemblies instead of custom-engineered solutions?

When an electrophysiology medical device isn’t designed with the interconnect in mind, the device can experience performance issues—such as loss of image quality and decreased signal integrity—that impact patient outcomes.

Keeping the interconnect solution top-of-mind while developing your electrophysiology device helps prevent these performance issues.

Accelerating energy-driven medical device development with prototyping.

When used strategically, prototyping can be an effective way to accelerate the device development process and decrease time-to-market because it enables you to validate your ideas faster than a drawing or specification sheet.

The ability to validate ideas faster can lead to better team alignment during the development process as well as improved voice-of-customer input, as prototypes can be shown to colleagues and healthcare practitioners and feedback can be collected and used.

Strategic prototyping can also help you identify design problems and opportunities early on, which enables you to streamline your development process and save your organization time and resources that may have been wasted pursuing a flawed concept.

The key to improving energy-driven medical device development: Focus on the interconnect.

So, how can you improve the development process of energy-driven medical devices to ensure that they reach peak performance?

By treating the interconnect solution like every other piece of the device: as something that should be designed, not purchased off-the-shelf.

Developing a custom interconnect solution helps you ensure that the connector and cable meet your exact requirements a while also eliminating the negative risks and costs associated with purchasing components off-the-shelf.

Your connector needs to be a connector designed for your medical device not a fork truck.

For a custom interconnect solution to perform at the highest level, we recommend working with an interconnect expert.

If you want to learn more about integrating the interconnect solution into your next device, check out our Interconnect Project Checklist.

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