If the number of virtual attendees was anything to go by, the EETimes Medical System Design Virtual Conference was a great success. Over 2000 professionals registered for the day-long event that included a keynote address, three editorial panels, two vendor-sponsored webinars, and five moderated chat sessions. In addition, visitors could stroll through the virtual show floor and visit the booths of the show’s sponsors: Wind River, Dessault Systems, Freescale Semiconductor, MKS, and Texas Instruments. The best news here is that if you were unable to attend the live event, the archived conference content can still be accessed.
While the content of the conference was varied and touched on a number of important topics relevant to device and system design, there were a few themes that were common to all the sessions. The first was an acknowledgement that the application of technological innovation in the medical market is still in its infancy. Beyond the traditional areas of the applications of technology such as patient monitoring, imaging, and testing, there are a number of areas where technology could bring dramatic improvements to the quality of service and productivity of the medical professional.
One of these areas is networking, specifically the wireless networking of medical devices and equipment in the home, the hospital, physicians' offices, and EMT vehicles. The objective is to provide health professionals with real-time access to data that will improve their ability to diagnose, monitor, and treat patients.
Presenters and panelists who participated in the Medical System Design Virtual Conference largely agree that the semiconductor, software, and communications technologies exist today to create robust networks that can handle the medical community's needs.
The discussions got interesting, however, when the panelists addressed the unique requirements of the medical market. There are two issues: Ensuring that the network is secure enough to adequately protect the patient’s privacy; and the necessity of high-reliability and integrity of the data flowing over the network given that lives may be at stake.
These issues were addressed directly by the three panels: the Networked Hospital, Home Healthcare, and Time to Market. The panelists debated the role that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is playing (and should play) in setting standards versus industry bodies. Currently there are a number of relevant industry standards that have implications for medical wireless networks, including IEC 80001, that the panels discussed.
With IEC 80001 just coming up for balloting this year, it’s too early to determine how the standard will affect the design of medical devices and associated networks. The consensus was that the industry needs to pay close attention to this and other standards as they evolve.
A second theme was related to the dramatic potential that technology can have in the medical market. Here, the Virtual Conference just scratched the surface and provided insight into what the future may hold. From innovations showcased by conference keynote speaker Doug Rasor, a 30-year industry veteran, to examples of novel home healthcare devices discussed by the panelists in the Home Healthcare session, to chat discussions about the Quality of Life and the Next Big Thing in medical devices, it was clear that the electronics industry has the potential to dramatically impact the medical profession.