AEDs are nearly as common as fire extinguishers in airports, shopping malls, ballparks and other places where people gather. You may be more familiar with the acronym, AED, than the full term – automated external defibrillator – but either way you probably know that they are important lifesaving devices for people in cardiac arrest. And you probably feel secure that, should you or someone nearby suffer a heart attack, help is nearby.
AED security takes on another meaning, however, when you consider what goes into designing these devices. Like other technology, medical or not, AEDs are a combination of hardware and software that is amazing when it works correctly, but potentially dangerous when it doesn’t. When AEDs work right, they diagnose heart arrhythmia and fibrillation and deliver the right dose and type of therapy (the shock to restart or resynchronize the heart).
When there’s a problem with the hardware, the software or the interaction between the two, the AED may not be able to help the person in need, or even worse, may cause serious injury or death.
I recently published an article, “There’s More to the AED than Meets the Chest,” in Medical Design Technology that described how hardware and software engineers can work together to develop safer, more reliable and more secure AEDs. This collaborative design process helps AED manufacturers bring better, safer and more reliable devices to market faster and at less expense. But I’d guess that the people who are most appreciative of advances in AED technology are the nearly 360,000 people each year who are treated for cardiac arrest by emergency medical responders.
For more on the technology behind the AED, read my article on Medical Design Technology. And, to learn how the QNX Neutrino RTOS platform plays a key role in AEDs and other medical devices, visit QNX Medical on the web.