by Loren Bonner
, DOTmed News Online Editor
This year's Association for the Advancement of Medical Instrumentation (AAMI) Conference & Expo wrapped up this week in Philadelphia. It's an interesting time for the field, as biomeds and health IT departments learn to work closely together and technologies become more sophisticated. Off the bat, regular attendees of AAMI conferences told DOTmed News that the show seemed to be more crowded this year than in the past. Official attendance figures from AAMI for this year's show stood at 1,670. Below are some other themes we spotted on the show floor and in the conference rooms.
Are your devices secure?
Like every facet of health care, medical devices are not immune from security vulnerabilities. Perhaps the most well-known example of this is when computer scientist Kevin Fu hacked into a combination heart defibrillator and pacemaker to induce potentially fatal electric jolts in 2008. During a presentation on security vulnerabilities in connected medical devices, Mike Ahmadi from the company Codenomicon said he recently "freaked out" a health system that cares for several prominent individuals when he told them that after testing their devices, 50 percent failed, showing vulnerability to attacks.
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"We need to look at digital bugs much like we look at carbon-based pathogens," Ahmadi told a packed room of conference attendees. "We always need to continue testing for them and managing them regardless of how good things appear."
Although it's proving challenging to get device manufacturers leading this charge, Ahmadi said it's their responsibility to discover the security vulnerabilities in their devices.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has also amped-up its efforts to try to ensure more safety when it comes to these potential attacks. New guidance released from the agency said that 510(k) submissions for medical devices should include cybersecurity testing. The FDA is also in the process of setting up a cybersecurity testing lab.
Tools for efficiency:
Streamlining technologies, reducing redundancies, eliminating errors, and improving efficiencies — these ideas were at the core of AAMI 2014. In a session concerned with health care technology management (HTM) programs, a lot of intuitively sensible suggestions for a more efficient hospital were discussed in great, three-step, detail. The authors of the program explained how the roles of medical professionals must fundamentally change with the advent of EHRs, CPOEs, and BCMAs.
On the vendor side, new services ranging from a Service Shop website for GE parts and productivity tools, to patient monitoring on a smart phone or tablet from Philips Healthcare were released.
Biomed and HIT unite:
This trend from last year continues. As technology evolves and more and more medical equipment like infusion pumps are connected to the larger hospital IT network, biomeds and HIT departments are being brought closer together. The Veterans Administration, for one, recognizes this. In a presentation titled, "Our Future Health Care Technology Manager" the VA spoke in depth about its efforts to fuse these two worlds more closely together for the past 10 years, through its Technical Career Field Program.