Congress Gives Healthcare Orgs a Rare Opportunity to Support Recall Reform

Jan. 30, 2024
The Medical Device Recall Improvement Act seeks to improve notifications for medical device recalls

The critical issue of medical device recall management is finally receiving the attention it deserves. First U.S. Representative Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) and U.S. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) introduced the "Medical Device Recall Improvement Act" in September 2023. Then the Government Accountability Office (GAO) kicked off an inquiry in January 2024 into the FDA's oversight of medical device recalls. Now a previously under-addressed aspect of patient safety is finally in the spotlight.

These governmental moves address critical gaps in our healthcare system's approach to medical device recalls. We can all hope that the increased attention will enhance patient safety and bring about more effective healthcare delivery.

The Medical Device Recall Improvement Act seeks to improve notifications for medical device recalls. It increases the transparency and accessibility of recall information, ensures timely and comprehensive communication to all stakeholders and enhances patient safety by mandating clear notifications regarding device risks and necessary actions. Key aspects include:

  1. The Establishment of an Electronic Format for Recall Notifications: The bill mandates the development of an electronic format for device recall notifications, aiming to enhance the efficiency and reach of these notifications.
  2. Detailed Content Requirements: Notifications must include comprehensive details such as manufacturer/importer names, contact information, specific reasons for the recall, unique device identifiers, and information tailored for both health professionals and patients, including risks and recommended actions.
  3. Notification Process: It outlines a structured process for notifying the Secretary, device user facilities, and health professionals. The Secretary must review notifications within specified timelines and advise on the information to be shared with relevant stakeholders.
  4. Creation of an Electronic Database: An accessible, downloadable database will be maintained, containing information about device notifications.
  5. Patient Notification: The legislation emphasizes notifying patients treated with recalled devices, particularly for class I and class II recalls involving class II or class III devices used outside facilities, life-sustaining, life-supporting, or significantly used in pediatric populations.
  6. Funding: The act includes authorization for appropriations for fiscal years 2024-2028 to support these activities.

If passed into law, the Medical Device Recall Improvement Act would significantly modernize the medical device recall process.

The Medical Device Recall Improvement Act, then, offers healthcare organizations a rare opportunity to support major reform. It’s our best chance in many years to repair an inefficient system that creates a great deal of unnecessary work and frustration, and — most importantly — puts patients at risk. 

Manufacturers and distributors should pay attention to these efforts and ask themselves why so much attention is being cast on this topic. The answer is that the current method of communicating and managing recalls leaves a lot to be desired, and puts a great deal of pressure on provider organizations.

Several organizations, including several leading healthcare institutions, have proactively formed collaborations to develop and promote electronic platforms that facilitate communication between suppliers and providers, effectively addressing numerous needs outlined in the recent legislation. Their initiatives demonstrate that legislative progress has failed to keep pace with the urgency of these issues. We can hope that this heightened focus will lead to a speedier legislative response and increased resources to resolve these challenges. 

Medical device manufacturers and distributors have a unique opportunity to be proactive, rather than reactive, in adopting electronic platforms for recall communication. Instead of waiting for legislative or FDA mandates, embracing such technologies early can significantly benefit health systems and patients. 

This approach not only ensures compliance in advance, but also demonstrates a commitment to patient safety and the betterment of healthcare. By taking the initiative, manufacturers can enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of their response to potential health risks.