Should you “just fix your medical device in software”?
I can’t count how many times I’ve heard the phrase “just fix it in software”, often followed by inevitable disagreements about how complex the problem is and that you can’t “just” change the code.
It is often deemed that almost any problem can be easily solved in software and (to an extent) I can understand where the thought process comes from. Software is an inherently malleable solution to many issues and changing a few lines of code can easily change functionality, allowing your developers to meet evolving system and user needs. The cost of releasing new software is relatively limited and it can be easier to distribute the software rather than other components of your medical devices.
Unfortunately, it’s not quite as simple in practice as it may seem. Whilst software is a powerful and flexible component in your device, in many cases, the cheapest and fastest way to solve problems lies outside of software. Let’s look at some of the reasons this may be the case.