The purpose of Customer Related processes as stipulated in the ISO 13485:2016, is to make sure that companies keep to a high standard when it comes to the products and services they offer to customers. In other words, it is a way of ensuring that the customer is the focus of the company and its product.
What the ISO 13485:2016 is hoping to achieve is a document that outlines an established User Requirement. The practice which started with the software industry helped to ensure that products meet the desired outcome of the end-users. Companies in today’s world, are concerned with how the user interacts and experiences the product, rather than what they need in their design process. Hence, abandoning the need for User Requirement for User Experience.
Apple products are an example of how design focuses on user experience instead of user requirement. Henry Ford, the famous founder of Ford Motors, made a quote that reveals a unique flaw with user requirement. He said that if he had been opportune to ask people what they required, they would have responded that they needed faster horses rather than cars.
While the software industry is embracing the concept of user experience, the medical device industry is still relying on user requirement. Although there is hope that the medical device sector will get there, we will be addressing User Requirement Specification (URS) as a part of the ISO 13485 clauses for customer-related processes and requirements.
Considerations Demands by ISO 13485 for Product Requirement
One of the most vital requirements for the product, as stipulated in the ISO 13485 clause, is the requirement for both delivery and post-delivery of products. There have been cases where companies failed to supply requirement for products as they relate to the installation, maintenance, training, packaging, calibration, and servicing. The ISO 13485 does mandate that these requirements be available and if they aren’t, they should be a justified reason for their absence.
Typically, not all products require all parts of the requirements. For example, the User Requirement Specification (URS) for a disposable device might only contain a section that justifies why there is no product requirement for calibration, servicing, maintenance and training. Additionally, another critical information stated in ISO 13485 is the fact that requirements not mentioned but needed for the product use will be identified. The stipulation helps to address the intent for consideration for product requirement during usage.
A disposable contact lens is an ideal example in clarifying implied consideration for the product requirement. Let’s say that the average shelf life for the contacts is 2 years as stipulated in the product requirement. However, the contact usage life cycle after the customer opens the seal is not accounted for in the requirement. Hence, should a customer use the lens for a week consistently before discarding it, while testing under such conditions has no to be done, implied product requirements means that the company has violated a requirement under the ISO 13485. Likewise, companies have to fulfill all applicable requirement such as the region and market for the product to best determine which product requirement to follow and note them in the product requirement document. In totality, even though the requirements may be specified or implied, they have to be met.
Product Requirement Review before commitment
This section of the ISO 13845 mandates the review of the product requirement long before the product gets to the customer. The review should cover the following;
- The documentation and definition of product requirements.
- The fulfillment of all applicable regulatory requirement.
- Updates on contract requirements that exist in previous product requirements.
- The capability of companies to satisfy the requirement.
- Planning and execution of required training.
All the review requires are pretty standard and can be met easily. The design and development team is responsible for the generation, design, and review of a URS document. Similar to every other report, the User Require Specification document will be revised for the entire length of a product. It is crucial that recisions be tracked and noted and more critical, changing numbering each revision or updates should be avoided as references to previous updates is a possibility. Similarly, with each new update and stage in the development of a product, the URS should be revised and updated. The same principle applies to contract updates for customer-based products as changes that exist with previous requirements need to be addressed.
Communication is the last major part of customer related process under ISO13485 and must be appropriately managed. All forms of communications with customers to be the individual or commercial customer requires careful consideration. A requirement that covers all forms and ways in which communications with customers are performed must be made available. The requirement covers; inquiries about orders, contracts and their amendments, product information, advisory notes, and feedback processes including complaints.
Also, there needs to be a way to categories which customer related communication that should be submitted to regulatory organizations alongside a scheduled time and system for the process. The communication that organization submits will vary with where they market their product and the industry category of their product.