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FDA Traceability Matrix Requirements for Medical Devices

Medical Device Traceability Designs and Templates: A Guide for Medtech Companies
Jake Stowe
August 11, 2023
May 26, 2023
5 minutes read

Traceability refers to the ability to track the lineage of information, requirements, and design elements throughout the software development lifecycle and often involves keeping records of the relationships between various artifacts, such as user stories, requirements, design documents, code, test cases, and more. 

Traceability verifies compliance, facilitates collaboration, and improves change management and testing, but in the world of validated medical devices, traceability demands even greater attention to detail to ensure patient health and safety. 

The key to proper traceability matrices is attention to detail

Traceability in medical devices is unique compared to other software. Stringent regulations, complex systems, importance of patient safety, post-market surveillance, and long product life cycles are all characteristics providing a total, end-to-end view of the software’s life cycle and performance throughout development and real-world environments. 

  1. Stringent Regulations: Medical devices are subject to stringent regulations, such as the FDA's Quality System Regulation (QSR) and the European Union's Medical Device Regulation (MDR), which require traceability to be maintained throughout the product lifecycle to ensure patient safety.
  2. Complex Systems: Medical devices often have complex systems and interdependencies, making traceability more challenging. For example, a change to one component of the device may have unexpected consequences for other parts of the system, and traceability can help ensure that all of these relationships are accounted for.
  3. Importance of Patient Safety: The primary focus of medical device traceability is patient safety, making it critical to ensure that all artifacts, including requirements, design documents, code, test cases, and more, are properly linked and accounted for.
  4. Postmarket Surveillance: Medical device traceability is not only important during the development phase, but also after the product is on the market. Traceability helps in postmarket surveillance by providing a clear understanding of the relationships between different components of the device, which can be critical in the event of a recall or other safety issue.
  5. Long Product Life Cycles: Medical devices often have long product life cycles, which means that traceability must be maintained throughout the entire life of the product. This can be challenging, especially as technology and regulations change over time.

Medical device companies must invest in tools and processes that support traceability to ensure patient safety and compliance with regulations. Traceability is a critical aspect of the development of software as a medical device, and maintaining clear documents throughout the product life cycle ensures that the device meets regulatory requirements and promotes patient safety. 

Effective tools and processes for FDA traceability

Best practices, such as implementing a robust and comprehensive documentation process, using tools to manage and track relationships between artifacts, and regularly reviewing and updating traceability information, can help organizations avoid missed requirements, oversights, and other issues that can impact product quality and safety. Remember: if your team doesn’t have a document to prove a test or action, those actions do not exist to the FDA and auditors. 

Tools like Ketryx, a total product lifecycle management system that documents every step of development, provides a centralized repository for all product information, which eases the burden of traceability on developers and quality assurance staff. By investing in traceability, organizations can increase the likelihood of their products reaching the market, lessen the chances of a dangerous or expensive recall, and remove the burden of manually tracing and filing data throughout the life cycle. 

Consequences of bad FDA traceability

Traceability in medical device software is a necessity for long-term patient and business protection. It's a smart choice for any company looking to protect their bottom line and ensure that their products are safe and reliable. By putting in the effort to track every step of the development process, you can avoid recalls, build trust with customers, and sleep better at night knowing that you're doing everything you can to keep patients safe. 

Recalls of medical devices can have serious consequences for both patients and the organizations responsible for producing them. In 2020 BD CareFusion 303 Inc. recalled an infusion pump due to software errors, leading to an immediate, high-impact health risk for patients due to improper distribution of medication. 

Damage to patient health is the worst consequence of software errors, but the consequences of recalls in the medical device industry do not stop there. For companies considering how to save money when handling software regulations, here is a list of major concerns to consider before skipping more reliable and risk-based tools for traceability: 

  1. Patient harm: The most serious consequence of a recall is that it can put patients at risk. Medical devices are used to diagnose, treat, or monitor health conditions, and a recall can disrupt treatment and lead to harm or even death.
  2. Financial losses: Recalls can be very expensive for companies, as they have to pay for the cost of recalling the devices and also compensate affected customers.
  3. Damage to reputation: A recall can seriously damage a company's reputation, causing a loss of customer trust and negatively impacting their brand.
  4. Regulatory penalties: In some cases, regulatory bodies may impose penalties on companies that recall their medical devices. These penalties can be substantial and can add to the financial losses associated with the recall.
  5. Loss of market share: Companies that have recalled their medical devices may also lose market share to their competitors, which can have long-term effects on their financial performance.

It is crucial for medical device organizations to take every step necessary to avoid recalls and ensure the safety of their products. This includes implementing effective traceability practices to minimize the risk of recalls and to mitigate their impact if they do occur. At the end of the day, patient safety is the primary focus on software as a medical device. When the patient is prioritized, attention to detail will be too. 

What is a traceability matrix, and why does the FDA regulate medical devices?

The FDA's regulation of medical devices, including the implementation of traceability measures such as Unique Device Identification (UDI) and tracking orders, aims to ensure the safety, effectiveness, and accountability of medical devices throughout their lifecycle, from production to patient use. 

The FDA classifies devices based on risk and requires extensive traceability to document the relationship between all components of a product or system. Class I devices have the lowest level of risk, while Class II and Class III devices are associated with higher levels of risk associated. The FDA classifies medical devices based on factors such as their intended use, potential risks to patients, and the level of control necessary to ensure their safety and effectiveness. 

For further traceability, the FDA-required UDI system establishes device-to-manufacturer links for tracking and identification down to the patient level with a unique identifier. All classes of devices must have a UDI, enhancing post-market surveillance, recall management, and adverse event reporting and corrective actions. UDI compliance is required for software as a medical device (SaMD) manufacturers as well. 

In cases of serious adverse health consequences or long-term implantation, the FDA has the authority to issue tracking orders. These orders require manufacturers to implement programs to track devices down to the patient level. Manufacturers receiving a tracking order must establish written standard operating procedures (SOPs) that outline the methods for device tracking throughout distribution. They are also required to have a quality assurance program in place, including auditing procedures, to ensure compliance with the tracking requirements.

Why should medtech and medical device companies ensure a proper traceability matrix is followed?

‍Medtech and medical device companies should ensure proper adherence to a traceability matrix for several important reasons. 

  1. Establish and maintain clear documentation of the relationship between different components of their products or systems. This documentation ensures that all requirements are adequately addressed and met throughout the product's lifecycle.
  2. Facilitate effective quality management and regulatory compliance. By mapping requirements against various stages of development and manufacturing, companies can easily trace and verify the fulfillment of these requirements. This traceability is crucial for demonstrating compliance with regulatory standards and industry guidelines, thereby ensuring device safety, efficacy, and reliability.
  3. Enhance risk management and problem-solving capabilities. In the event of an issue or incident related to a medical device, companies can quickly identify and assess the potential impact by tracing it back to its specific components, processes, or suppliers. This enables prompt corrective actions, minimizing potential risks to patient safety and ensuring the ongoing improvement of product quality. 
  4. Support effective supply chain management. With traceability established, companies can track and manage the movement of components, materials, and devices throughout the supply chain. This helps identify potential bottlenecks, ensure product authenticity, enable efficient recalls if necessary, and enhance overall supply chain transparency and efficiency.
  5. Meet regulatory requirements, mitigate risks, address issues promptly, and maintain the highest standards of quality and patient safety throughout the product life cycle.

Where can I find a traceability template matrix for FDA submission or an audit?

A full traceability template and additional information can be found in the Ketryx Learning Center in the eBook Discover Why Traceability Doesn’t have to be so Hard

The following elements define a traceability matrix for Software as a Medical Device (SaMD):

  • Goal/User Need: The user needs a SaMD that provides accurate diagnosis for a specific medical condition.
  • Design Input: The SaMD must achieve a diagnostic accuracy of at least 95% in clinical trials.
  • Design Output: The algorithm implemented in the SaMD generates diagnostic results with an accuracy of 97% based on the clinical trial data.
  • Verification: The SaMD's algorithm undergoes rigorous testing, including unit testing, integration testing, and validation against known datasets.
  • Validation: The SaMD is validated through a clinical study involving a large sample size, comparing its diagnostic results with those of expert clinicians in a real-world setting.

Many teams use a spreadsheet tool like Excel to create a traceability matrix. However, manual entry and management of information in a spreadsheet can be time-consuming and error-prone. Ketryx ALM automates the traceability matrix creation and maintenance process, minimizes errors, and provides efficient tracking and reporting capabilities for regulatory audits and compliance verification.

Traceability matrix for medical devices: automated and simplified 

As software grows more complex in the development of medical devices, the burden of traceability becomes increasingly critical. With global regulations, complex systems, and the paramount importance of patient safety, maintaining a total, end-to-end view of the software's lifecycle and performance is essential. This is where tools like Ketryx ALM play a vital role in aiding QA and R&D teams with automatic traceability and documentation.

By investing in traceability tools and processes, medical device organizations can navigate the intricate landscape of regulations and complexities, increasing the likelihood of successful product launches and mitigating the risk of costly recalls.

The consequences of poor traceability can be severe, and they highlight the importance of prioritizing traceability in medical device development by adopting tools like Ketryx ALM to alleviate the manual burden of tracing and filing data throughout the product life cycle. By ensuring meticulous attention to detail and embracing traceability, organizations can safeguard patients, protect their bottom line, build customer trust, and contribute to a healthier and safer future.

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Schedule a meeting or demo with Ketryx today. 

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