As we grow older, however healthy we may be, we are increasingly likely to need to purchase products from the ever-widening range of medical devices available, from simple tongue depressors to advanced prosthetics. It is a large and profitable industry; the US market for medical devices alone was worth around $140 billion in 2015 and it employs over 350,000 people.

As with all profitable businesses, there is a danger that we could be mis-sold a product due to overeager marketing or our own amplified fear. When dealing with something as serious as health matters, it is, of course, sensible to take extra care. This is why it is of paramount importance to ensure that we conduct proper research before we purchase any kind of medical device from sites likeĀ

Medical devices in the US are regulated by the FDA in three classes according to the potential risk posed to patients by misuse or failure. While there is an obvious but small inherent risk in something as simple as a pair of latex gloves or gauze dressing, more sophisticated devices bring with them not only greater complexity and effectiveness but also a greater probability of potentially life-threatening mishaps. For even when production standards are high and quality control stringent, the very fact that these devices may be trusted to keep us alive means that when a failure occurs the results will often be catastrophic.

As technology develops to be more efficient, it can also engender a deeper reliance by patients, and due to this, considerably more harm when it fails. This is especially true of internal devices such as heart pacemakers, which once implanted cannot be easily monitored for problems. This is clearly exemplified by the case of student Joshua Oukrop of Indianapolis, the USA who passed away due to a design flaw in his internal heart defibrillator. A flaw that was known to the manufacturer, yet never publicised until after his apparently needless death at just 21 years of age. Following the case, it became apparent that although the same device had been implanted in many patients, removal posed possible harm to hem than the determinable risk of continued use.

Further, as therapeutic apparatus becomes more interconnected, it is increasingly becoming vulnerable to outside interference. While no injuries have so far been reported due to malware or hacking attacks, a report by a specialists for the University of Michigan in 2012 revealed that the fact most large computerised medical equipment runs on Microsoft Windows makes it frighteningly vulnerable to external attacks, or simply viruses spreading from laptops or smartphones that are innocently brought into hospitals. In addition, hospital administrators are still woefully unprepared for such eventualities and are often reticent to hire cyber-security professionals to ensure that proper safeguards against malware are properly installed and kept up to date.

Such malware or intentional attacks is not the only problem. As the devices, and the highly-specific software required to operate them, become more complex, the threat of failure swells. It is not uncommon, for example, for fetal monitors for high-risk pregnancies to experience a dangerous slowdown in certain situations which are not fully understood, so that it is still necessary for a member of staff to monitor them continuously in operation, and regular maintenance to be required simply to keep them operational.

In conclusion, whether you are in the market as a parent for a thermometer to take your child’s temperature, or as the manager of a hospital needing an advanced MRI scanner, it is vital that you conduct full and proper research into the product.