Software as a Medical Device: Challenges Facing the Industry

15 May 2023 Health Care Law Today Blog
Author(s): Kyle Y. Faget Nathan A. Beaver Jessa Boubker Thomas B. Ferrante Rachel B. Goodman Eric L. Sophir Nicholas J. Zepnick Austin J. Kim Devaki Patel

SaMD Blog Series: Introduction

Editor’s Note: We are excited to announce that this article is the first of a series addressing Software as a Medical Device and the issues that plague digital health companies, investors, clinicians and other organizations that utilize software and medical devices. We will be addressing various considerations including technology, data, intellectual property, licensing, and contracting.

The intersection of software, technology and health care and the proliferation of software as a medical device in the health care arena has become common place and has spurred significant innovations. The term Software as a Medical Device (SaMD) is defined by the International Medical Device Regulators Forum as “software intended to be used for one or more medical purposes that perform these purposes without being part of a hardware medical device.” In other words, SaMD need not be part of a physical device to achieve its intended purpose. For instance, SaMD could be an application on a mobile phone and not be connected to a physical medical device.

With the proliferation of SaMD also comes the need for those building and using it to firmly grasp legal and regulatory considerations to ensure successful use and commercialization. Over the next several weeks, we will be addressing some of more common issues faced by digital health companies, investors, innovators, and clinicians when developing, utilizing, or commercializing SaMD. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has already cleared a significant amount of SaMD, including more than 500 algorithms employing artificial intelligence (AI). Some notable examples include FDA-cleared SaMD such as wearable technology for remote patient monitoring; doctor prescribed video game treatment for children with ADHD; fully immersive virtual reality tools for both physical therapy and mental wellness; and end to end software that generates 3D printed models to better plan surgery and reduce operation time. With this rapid innovation comes a host of legal and regulatory considerations which will be discussed over the course of this SaMD Blog Series.

General Intellectual Property (IP) Considerations for SaMD

This edition will discuss the sophisticated IP strategies that can be used to protect innovations for the three categories of software for biomedical applications: SaMD, software in a medical device, and software used in the manufacture or maintenance of a medical device, including clinical trial collaboration and sponsored research agreements, filing patent applications, and pursuing other forms of protection, such as trade secrets.

Licensing and Contracting with Third Parties for SaMD

This edition will unpack engaging with third parties practically and comprehensively, whether in the context of (i) developing new SaMD or (ii) refining or testing existing SaMD. Data and IP can be effectively either owned or licensed, provided such licenses protect the future interests of the licensee. Such ownership and licensing are particularly important in the AI and machine learning space, which is one area of focus for this edition.

FDA Considerations for SaMD

This edition will explore how FDA is regulating SaMD, which will include a discussion of what constitutes a regulated device, legislative actions to spur innovation, and how FDA is approaching regulation of specific categories of SaMD such as clinical decision support software, general wellness applications, and other mobile medical devices. It will also examine the different regulatory pathways for SaMD and FDA’s current focus on Cybersecurity issues for software.

Health Care Regulatory and Reimbursement Considerations for SAMD

This edition will discuss the intersection of remote monitoring services and SaMD, prescription digital therapeutics and how they intersect with SaMD, licensure and distributor considerations associated with commercializing SaMD, and the growing trend to seek out device specific codes for SaMD.

Our hope is that this series will be a starting point for digital health companies, investors, innovators, and clinicians as each approaches development and use of SaMD as part of their business and clinical offerings.

Foley is here to help you address the short- and long-term impacts in the wake of regulatory changes. We have the resources to help you navigate these and other important legal considerations related to business operations and industry-specific issues. Please reach out to the authors, your Foley relationship partner, or to our Health Care Practice Group with any questions.

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