FDA's Software Monsters: Cybersecurity, Interoperability, Mobile Apps and Home Use

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  • Published date: July 5, 2018
    • Baltimore, Maryland, United States

Software's level of complexity and use is expanding at exponential levels. Likewise, the potential risks to health follow suit. Ransomeware attacks hold your software hostage until you pay hundreds or thousands of dollars. Life supporting and life sustaining healthcare grinds to a halt. Extracting personal healthcare information is another plague that has a huge financial incentive for hackers. Your software is running on thin ice.

The FDA looks at software in one of three ways: Standalone, such as for a mobile app; device-based software used to control a device's performance, or simply electronic records. FDA's risk classification will gradually clarify how it intends to manage the health risks with premarket and postmarket controls. What the FDA did not see was the cancer of cybersecurity attacks, the failure of interoperability, and the explosion in the use of wireless communication and mobile apps.

Inadequate cybersecurity programs and the lack of interoperability for healthcare users pose the greatest threat to any healthcare system. Software exploitations are using more sophisticated approaches and the hackers' programs are readily available on the "dark web."

The increasing sophistication required to protect software programs and have them work with other programs requires progressive software design and software validation considerations. In many instances, validation is limited to the immediate use of the software rather than its environment of use, its performance with other software programs and software hacking. FDA can ask you what you have considered before you take a product to market. Whether your software can survive unscathed is another question. When software causes a problem, fixing the malfunction or "bug" may be more difficult as software becomes more sophisticated, customized by users and placed in a network system. In these kinds of circumstances, it is difficult to decide who is responsible for managing and fixing the software problems, preventing them from recurring. This becomes a major regulatory headache for FDA and generates business-to-business conflicts. When firms are designing and marketing software, they should be mindful of the unknowns that lurk in the future of software regulated as a device by the FDA.

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