Over 200 members of the medical device packaging industry gathered last week in Albuquerque, NM for the annual HealthPack conference. DDL was once again a sponsor, exhibitor and active participant in the three-day event. Following is a recap of some of the highlights and issues that were discussed during this year’s conference.
Sustainability was one of the hot topics during the pre-conference discussion group session, and continued to be addressed during many of the sessions throughout the conference. The general consensus is that sustainability will be driven by the hospitals as they continue to look for ways to reduce costs and wastes, as well as by regulatory standards in the EU and eventually the U.S. Many of the proposed changes to EU regulations were addressed by Julian Carroll, partner, HC Services International, in his keynote address on the final day. The new focus in sustainability according to Carroll will be on having the “optimal” or “right” amount of packaging rather than on just minimizing packaging.
Despite all the discussion, there were no definitive conclusions put forth over how soon this will translate to the real world with medical device manufacturers being required to meet specific sustainability standards with their packaging. This point was driven home further during a focus group and panel discussion with a group of operating room nurses from the Albuquerque area. Asked if sustainability was an important issue for them or not, one of the panel members commented that while she prefers packages that are more sustainable, factors such as ease of use and sterility are more important.
The focus group with the nurses also was a fascinating demonstration of how packages are used in the real world. During the session, the nurses were given a number of different packages to open and asked to comment on what they liked or didn’t like about the package. The first package was difficult for all nurses to open and as a result most all of the participants ended up touching the product and contaminating it. The nurses found the other packages much easier to open and in general were well designed packages. Some basic things they all said they look for with a package include:
- Ease of use – the ability to open quickly and handle the product easily
- Clear and readable directions along with expiration date – they can’t use the product if expiration date is not readable
- Protecting the product and maintaining sterility – this is still key
- Not having a product be over packaged – getting packaging just right
Another highlight of the conference was the panel discussion on Packaging Testing Developments that included Scott Levy, senior engineer at DDL, as a participant. Others on the panel included Dan Burgess, principal packaging engineer, Boston Scientific; Jennifer Griffin, principal packaging engineer, Medtronic; Wendy Mach, packaging section leader, Nelson Laboratories; and, Oliver Stauffer, chief operating officer, PTI Inspection Systems.
The panel answered questions from the audience on a wide range of issues including:
- The need to add testing earlier in the product development timeline
- How to determine how much testing is required
- What tests keep people up at nights
- The need for better integrity testing methods that are less destructive to the product
- Some of the next generation testing technology such as sensors and thermo-imaging
Other sessions at the conference included:
- What’s next in Unique Device Identification
- How to evaluate and develop packages that are more intuitive and user friendly
- What’s new with ASTM, AAMI and ISTA standards
- An update on DuPont’s Tyvek® transition project
- Applying pharma QbD concepts to med-device stability studies
- Determining the right amount of sample size to reduce risk
- The pros and cons of using heat sealed coatings
In addition to the many informative sessions, HealthPack provides a great opportunity for members of the medical device packaging industry to reconnect with old colleagues, as well as network with peers and meet new contacts. DDL looks forward to participating in next year’s HealthPack being held March 3-5, 2015 in Norfolk, VA.