Software as a medical device (SaMD) is defined by the International Medical Device Regulators Forum as “software intended to be used for one or more medical purposes that perform these purposes without being part of a hardware medical device.” SaMD is developed at a much faster pace than traditional medical devices, and may require frequent updates, as opposed to hardware devices that typically are updated every few years. While SaMD and medical devices are clearly different and evolve at completely different paces, the same regulatory approval process currently applies to both types of technology. Using the same process for both is akin to forcing a square peg into a round hole – it is not going to work because one size does not fit all, especially in healthcare.
This is a watershed moment in healthcare. New technologies are constantly in development to help treat and prevent previously incurable conditions, and improve current processes. From leadless pacemakers to mobile applications that advance telehealth access, digital innovation is at an all-time high. The problem is that our current speed of regulatory approval for these innovations simply cannot keep up.
While many groundbreaking technologies are being created, their full promise is not being realized because they are not being approved quickly enough to be implemented and adopted by health systems. The FDA regulatory process has long been a matter of contention. However, now that the rate of innovation is increasing, things need to change accordingly. By working together to streamline this regulatory process, technology will arrive to the market faster and propel the healthcare industry forward.
Much has changed in the years since HIPAA was first passed into law, not the least of which is the use of mobile technology in healthcare. As a physician, patient, and healthcare technology business leader, I have experienced numerous frustrations and inefficiencies resulting from practices struggling to adhere to the letter of the HIPAA law rather than embracing its spirit.