Introduction to Medical Equipment Quality Assurance
Medical devices come in various forms and for various purposes. They could range from pacemakers, to insulin pump, prosthetic limb, catheters, and so on, and impact the health and lives of people using them. This makes them critical for the survival of the patients and their quality, performance, and safety are of paramount importance.
To ensure this, regulatory bodies lay stress on the quality management processes at every stage of the product development, manufacturing, product, and service delivery. Ensuring the compliance of products to standards, their quality, performance, and safety is quality assurance. Medical equipment quality assurance focuses on the quality of the processes associated with the product right from design to obsolescence, proactively managing quality and preventing risk factors from turning into hazards and events.
The Components of Medical Equipment Quality Assurance
Quality assurance and quality control are two parts of the quality management system. While quality control is reactive and focuses on specifics like ensuring product performance through testing and inspection, quality assurance is more systemic. It focuses on the product design to development, delivery and retirement process, preventing deviations and errors in the manufacturing process. This minimizes the risk of nonconformance and continuous improvement of quality management to ensure product quality, performance, and safety.
With quality assurance, businesses assess how well the standard operating procedures are implemented and executed, whether these processes are healthy and effective, and deliver on promise. This focus on process ensures that the end product is of the desired quality, conforms to the specifications, is compliant, and results in desired outcomes.
Quality assurance is a process with many steps to prevent flaws from entering the system. The aim is to identify risks and implement controls and continuous improvement to minimize deviations and potential errors. It ensures compliance with relevant regulatory standards and requirements such as ISO and FDA, as also the internal standards and policies.
The effective implementation of quality assurance is ensured through what is commonly called as the Plan-Do-Study-Act Cycle. It is an iterative process that begins with a plan for quality improvement, actualizing the improvement process, assessing its effectiveness, and acting based on the feedback to start the next cycle of improvement.
Along with the PDSA Cycle, quality assurance teams also use testing to monitor the manufacturing process and ensure it meets all the requirements. This helps to determine and flaws in the product at an early stage, correct them, and decrease defects over time through constant process improvement.
Quality assurance can happen at 4 stages:
- Stage 1: Pre-production
- Stage 2: During production
- Stage 3: Pre-shipment inspection
- Stage 4: Container loading/loading supervision
Four processes that help ensure QA include:
Audits: Audits are scheduled and conducted to verify whether manufacturing procedures comply with internal standards and regulatory requirements.
Defining Processes: A process is defined and detailed to provide clarity at the time of testing to ensure the delivery of consistent results.
Identifying and Selecting Tools: The right tools must be chosen to test products and they must be calibrated often for reliable results.
Training: Quality is an enterprise-wide activity with contribution from every team member. Providing training in aligning tasks to quality SOPs and following protocols is critical to ensure proactive approach to quality. Identify gaps and provide suitable training to meet quality needs.
Benefits of Medical Equipment Quality Assurance
The direct benefit of a good medical equipment quality assurance process is the continuous improvement of quality product performance, and safety. There are some significant and indirect benefits too. These include:
Lower Manufacturing Costs: As the quality of processes improves, so does efficiency, productivity, and resource utilization. This results in lower costs of manufacturing, larger savings, and greater innovation.
Risk Reduction: Constant monitoring of the quality and performance of processes and product help identify potential risks and take mitigative action to minimize damage and errors.
Improved Customer Satisfaction: Enhancing the quality of manufacturing process improves the quality of the product. Quality assurance ensures that the product performs as expected, helping customers with their healthcare needs and providing satisfaction. This helps with building the brand reputation and accelerating growth. It also helps with innovation and value addition, thereby improving customer delight.
Why medical equipment quality assurance is important?
One of the primary requirements for a medical device manufacturer is to meet regulatory needs. A robust medical equipment quality assurance (QA) ensures compliance and establishes a culture of quality that goes beyond compliance. Quality integrates with all processes and incorporates proactive and preventative aspects, reducing issues and improving product performance.
It also protects patients and healthcare workers using the product from potential harm. Constant improvement and innovation improves the product quality and performance, thereby increasing customer delight.
It helps with risk management and minimizes the possibility of potentially harmful devices from entering the market.
It brings down the risk of warning letters and recalls. This, in turn, protects businesses from financial losses due to rework and the damage to reputation.
Integration of quality workflows with operations enhances visibility into processes and facilitates automation, further reducing errors and risks. Cloud-based quality assurance systems also enable businesses to manage quality even in remote sites and empower workers across locations to align their processes with quality procedures. It helps create a culture of quality with proactive resolution of issues.