A profound realization was made while performing a routine MDR gap analysis of Medical Device Academy’s technical documentation procedure.
In this article I wanted to discuss the functional effect that a gap analysis can have on your entire quality system. Everything mentioned below is because I performed a MDR gap analysis against a single procedure which resulted in the addition of three words to a single sentence. This small modification was made simply for clarification of a sentence that was already compliant without the change. Those three words made me reexamine the entire procedure. Then I tried to identify possible interpretations of that one sentence both before and after the modification. Finally, I questioned how adding three words might affect quality systems as a whole.
What was the section reviewed in the MDR gap analysis?
The MDD (i.e. 93/42/EEC) did not include a section that defined the requirements for technical documentation. The MDD does not include the phrase “device description,” or “intended patient population.” Therefore, when the MDR came into force, companies were forced to update their technical documentation procedure to comply with the new Annex. The section of the regulation that I was performing the MDR gap analysis against was Annex II. Specifically, subsections 1.1a) and 1.1c):
- 1.1(a) “product or trade name and a general description of the device including its intended purpose and intended users“;
- 1.1c) “the intended patient population and medical conditions to be diagnosed, treated and/or monitored and other considerations such as patient selection criteria, indications, contra-indications, warnings;“
(taken from the English Version of Regulation EU 2017/745 on 08/30/2018)
There are only two places in the MDD where the phrase “intended users” is found: Article 11(14) and Annex I(1). In Annex I(1) of the MDD, the Directive clarified that design of devices shall include: “consideration of the technical knowledge, experience, education and training and where applicable the medical and physical conditions of intended users (design for lay, professional, disabled or other
users).” The introduction of the phrase “intended patient population” in the MDR forced me to reevaluate the wording we were using in our SYS-025 Technical Documentation Procedure. The wording we were using was: “users and patients.” Therefore, first I added the word “intended” before “users” and “patient”, and second I added the word “population” after “patient.”
Why would the MDR require these specific changes?
These are very small changes but the changes were meant to more clearly explain that documentation was needed for very specific areas. Previous versions of the procedure left more room for interpretation that intended users may not have been differentiated as strongly from intended patients, especially for cases where they are one in the same. These two subsections of Annex II, 1.1 (a) and 1.1 (c), outline that there are two specific populations of real people that must be taken into account within the device description and design specification areas of your technical documentation:
- the intended users, and
- the intended patient.
Even if the user and the patient represent the same person, these are two separate areas that require technical documentation. Intended users, whom may or may not be within the “intended patient population” that the device was designed for, should be entirely separate on your technical documentation.
Take for example, a home use lancet device included within a glucometer kit. The intended user is probably going to be the diabetic patient who wishes to check their blood glucose levels at home. In this case the intended user would also be a member of the intended patient population.
However, because this is not always the case there should be a clear separation of the documentation between the intended users of 1.1(a) and the intended patient population in 1.1(c). An example of this would be something like a surgical scalpel. A medical device that would probably be intended to be used by a physician within the controlled environment of a surgical procedure. In this example scenario the intended patient population would differ from the user because the patient would be the population of people who would need to undergo the above mentioned surgical procedures, but the user of the device is the physician or surgeon actually performing the procedure.
Considerations going beyond my MDR gap analysis
Everything that we are talking about is for intended patient populations or intended users. Documentation regarding these areas is important for several reasons and strong record keeping early on in the device development stages will help with things like statistical analysis, tracking and trending, and even possible modifications to Instructions For Use or labeling in the future. Most people performing a gap analysis would just make the changes and move forward without a second thought. However, the phrase “intended patient population” was introduced to the MDR for a reason, and it forced me to think beyond the task at hand.
Let us look back at our diabetic patient with the home use glucometer kit. I like fleshing my characters out, and providing a back story really helps me mentally associate these fictitious characters with the potential real-life patients they may represent.
I am going to name him Matthew D. Mellitus Jr. He is 28 years old. A morbidly obese type II diabetic, and a married father of two. Beyond the extraordinary play on words with Mr. D. Mellitus, II is I promise that there is a purpose behind this.
Matt is the intended user of the specific glucometer kit that he has. It contains within it, a glucometer, alcohol prep pads, a lancet device, spare lancets, and a container of test strips. He is also a member of the intended patient population because he is a diabetic with orders from his primary care physician to check his blood glucose levels at home.
One day while at home his spouse finds that it appears he is sleeping at an odd time of day and is rather unarousable. Knowing that he is diabetic she checks his blood sugar using that same glucometer kit. Now this is a broad made up but plausible scenario. Is his spouse an “intended user”? Sure, Matt the diabetic is still a member of the “intended patient population”, but ask yourself some of these follow up questions:
- Did the manufacturer of the glucometer kit design and document the intended user to include caretakers of the “intended patient population”?
- If not, does this mean that Matt’s spouse was using the glucometer in an off-label manner?
- If both caretakers and patients are intended users, are the Instructions For Use written in such a manner that they are clearly understood when applied to testing blood glucose levels on others as well as yourself?
- Perhaps this was an unforeseen human factor when designing the glucometer kit that needs further study?
I promise that questions like these are better asked and incorporated into the design and development of a medical device early on rather than having to address them post-market release and have to consider recalls, notifications, corrective actions, etc. in the future.
Do the questions end with my MDR gap analysis?
All of the above discussion resulted from a single sentence, being tweaked just a little bit, in order to make a procedure more clear and leaving less room for interpretation.These are just theoretical questions that should be asked. As the ‘rabbit hole’ always seems to go deeper and branch off so do some of these theoretical situations. This was just a bit of a back and forth conversation with myself regarding a very specific section of Annex II. As we delve deeper into the proverbial rabbit hole, consider again the situation where Matt’s spouse used the device. If she was not an “intended user,” does this qualify as “misuse of the device”? Maybe, or maybe not, but each situation will result in different answers to these questions.
If you go back to Annex I, Chapter 1, Section 3(c) it states, “estimate and evaluate the risks associated with, and occurring during, the intended use and during reasonably foreseeable misuse.” If that is considered misuse, is it ‘reasonably foreseeable’ (taken from the English Version of Regulation EU 2017/745 on 08/31/2018)? What is considered misuse? The EU MDR does not have misuse in its definitions. In fact, the term misuse is only even used three times. To narrow down whether or not this is reasonably foreseeable misuse we need to find a working definition within an accepted harmonized standard or other regulation that applies to the governance of medical devices within the same manner that the EU MDR does.
That same thoroughness needs to be applied to how misuse may be considered foreseeable. Maybe through human factors studies? Maybe through post market surveillance it is discovered that the device is sometimes used by someone other than an intended user, or for something other than the intended purpose. Should misuse be discovered, or suspected does it fall under the realm of it being ‘reasonably foreseeable?’ Ask these questions early, ask them often and then don’t be afraid to ask if they still apply in the future. Have regulations or standards changed? Proactive measures can help discover issues sooner. This lets risks be addressed sooner and ultimately could prevent negative outcomes and experiences from the patients these devices are meant to help.
Conclusions of this MDR gap analysis
I had these thoughts while updating Medical Device Academy’s procedures. First, procedures should always be living documents that can grow and change as standards and regulations metamorphasize to meet the needs of the ever evolving medical device community. This MDR gap analysis applies largely to technical documentation and as such we updated our technical documentation procedure. Every time we analyze quality system documents and technical documentation through the lens of a new standard or regulation, we are certain to expand our appreciation for the complexity of medical device design and development.