Medical Gadgets Buggy, Not Just Vulnerable

A computerized drug-delivery system is being recalled, as it has a bug that could tell people it’s delivering a different dose of medication than the one it’s actually pumping in. This seems unfortunate.

Adding irony to injury, the whole point of the system is preventing medical errors of just this sort. Instead of requiring the practitioner to enter an amount each time, they choose common dosages from a pre-defined library.

This raises the question — what’s worse, human error or device failure?

People generally seem much more willing to risk human error in really critical situations. Ask anyone with a choice whether they’d use radios or hand signals, or deal with a winch when manpower will do.

“there’s more evidence of the lurking epidemic of shoddy software implementations in medical devices that provide critical patient care. The medical device maker Hospira issued a voluntary, nationwide recall of its Symbiq brand infusion systems after discovering a software error that caused the touch screen interfaces on the devices to respond incorrectly to user input. The problem could result in “a delayed response and or the screen registering a different value from the value selected by the user,” the company said in a statement.

Symbiq is a drug infusion system that delivers controlled amounts of medications to patients through intravenous, intra-arterial, epidural and other means. It is designed to prevent medical errors by offering pre-defined doses from a drug library. The devices are capable of delivering 16,000 medications across 40 clinical care areas. Symbiq systems are also wi-fi enabled and communicate infusion data back to a separate MedNet management application.”


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