Published on 08.11.2021
Development | In mid-2018, Exias Medical will launch its new stand-alone electrolyte analyzer for point-of-care diagnostics. The IVD analyzer enables significantly faster measurement procedures with simplified operability. Exias brought electronics specialist S.I.E on board for hardware and software development.
The trend towards moving modern diagnostic equipment to the so-called “point of care”, i.e. to doctors and clinics in private practice, poses new challenges for manufacturers and developers.
manufacturers and developers new challenges. Smaller, faster, simpler: this is what both doctors and patients expect from fully digital minilabs. To this end, Exias Medical GmbH from Graz, Austria, has developed a highly integrated measuring unit for electrolyte analysis, which, thanks to its innovative electrochemical measuring process, is capable of satisfying precisely those needs.
Human-machine interface for improved operability
The intuitive and smartphone-like control by means of a state-of-the-art touchscreen interface simplifies the operation of the unit. At the same time, all consumables are combined in a single cartridge. These optimizations, in conjunction with the process technology, result in a more than 50 % shorter measuring time and lower sample volume in relation to comparable electrolyte analyzers on the market. In addition, the instrument is the world’s first and only electrolyte analyzer to feature a fully automated module for daily quality control measurements.
In the design of the new analyzer, particular emphasis was placed on intuitive and easy operation. “The first and initial approach to the
operation was a tablet-based control system. However, due to the high demands on the reliability of the system and a corresponding long-term availability, these plans were quickly discarded and the idea of developing a specially designed, fully integrated user interface was born,” recalls Josef Hindinger, Managing Partner of Exias Medical and responsible for Research & Development at the Austrian medical technology company. “However, the development of human-machine interfaces, their conceptualization and design is not our core business. That’s why we brought a competent development partner on board at this point in the conceptual design process with S.I.E.”
The Vorarlberg-based innovation driver S.I.E from Lustenau realizes custom-fit, application-oriented and platform-based modular human-machine interfaces including graphical user interfaces (GUI) for its partners. After initial exploratory talks in spring 2015, the first workshops were quickly started. “The biggest challenge for complex analytical devices is to make them as intuitive to use as possible. It should be possible for the units to be controlled in an uncomplicated manner by appropriately trained personnel, and they should nevertheless be able to optimally process their originally complex task area in the background,” says Dr. Michael Saugspier, Business Unit Manager Human Machine Interfaces at S.I.E. He is certain: “Functional samples of the assemblies, which we make available in very early development phases in order to begin work on basic software logics, help us and our partners to tackle this important task at an early stage and to test results directly in practice. At the end of the day, we see the most important point in development in partnership as an assembly that is optimally integrated into the end product and the absolute focus on the application and user.”
Cooperation from the very first development steps
Together, Exias Medical and S.I.E developed the electronic system architecture and mechanics for integrating the HMI (human-machine interface) unit, as well as corresponding program logics. “An important success factor f in this very open and trust-based type of joint development was the very early timing of the start of the collaboration,” Hindinger says. “Already in the course of the first workshops, important mutual needs and requirements were discussed and uncovered, which would have been much more difficult to implement at a later stage of development.”
Currently, the electrolyte analyzer is in the process of design transfer. The sales launch and market entry for the device is planned for mid-2018. The operating philosophy and system architecture developed in this project will also be used and applied for other devices in a similar environment in the future. Josef Hindinger is very satisfied with the schedule and the collaboration: “Thanks to precise collaborative project management, mutual integration into systems and tool landscapes, and the flexibility of both partners, we can now look forward with pride to the scheduled market launch and further projects.”
Dr. Michael Saugspier also sees the trend towards development networks throughout the industry: “More and more often, we experience that specialists such as Exias Medical bring specialists on board as partners for assemblies such as the HMI units in order to focus their own manpower in their actual core area. Of course, this type of cooperation is always based on corresponding trust and openness to jointly master all imponderables along the development process.” However, the work carried out together with the Graz-based diagnostics specialist once again demonstrates the benefits for both sides – electronics development specialists and medical device manufacturers.