Why Baby Boomers should stay on top of Medical Device Recalls

By Cher Zevala

Special to the Financial Independence Hub

Today, there are nearly 80 million Americans over age 65 — and that number is expected to double within the next 30 years.

Such an increase in the number of older adults, many of whom have more active lifestyles than previous generations, along with advances in technology, means that the medical device market has grown exponentially along with the population. More people than ever before are relying on medical devices, such as artificial joints, cardiac devices, and other advances to stay healthy and active longer than they otherwise might have.

With the expansion of the medical device market among older adults, though, there is also some concern. Although the overall number of medical device recalls is down almost 30 per cent since 2014, recalls are still something to be concerned about. Class I recalls, in which there is a high risk of the device causing serious injury or death, are thankfully the rarest, but the most common type of recall, Class II, still carries some risk. A Class II recall is issued when a device has a chance of causing a serious health problem or injury, but can be fixed. Class III recalls are only for those devices that have no chance of causing injury or death, and are also quite rare.

Of course, judging by some of the headlines and television commercials that we see all the time, it seems like medical device recalls are quite common — and that anyone who has ever used certain devices, some of which are very common among Baby Boomers, is not only at risk of imminent death, but also entitled to significant compensation. There are certainly cases in which compensation is warranted, but before it gets to that point, it’s important for individuals to stay abreast of recalls to protect themselves.

The Trouble with Recalls

In most cases, recalls are issued voluntarily by medical device manufacturers; rarely does the FDA order a company to issue a recall. When the decision to recall is made, the company needs to notify affected individuals. This isn’t always as easy as it sounds.

To identify patients who are affected by a recall, the device manufacturer must track the devices throughout the supply chain, which can be complex, as every device leaves the manufacturer and goes to a distributor which in turn supplies any number of thousands of medical facilities.  Of course, this is made even more complex by the fact that every point along that chain has its own processes and procedures for tracking and managing inventory — and there is no centralized clearinghouse or process for informing patients about recalls.

Therefore, it’s usually up to providers and patients to stay abreast of recall news and act when necessary. Often, health insurance companies also become involved in the process; but again, identifying patients who have the specific devices that have been recalled is often a lengthy and complex process.  Patients who have medical devices, then, bear some responsibility for staying on top of recall news and taking action, including contacting a personal injury lawyer, if they suspect that their device needs to be reviewed.

Keeping Informed

Experts note one of the reasons for the explosive growth in the Baby Boomer medical device market is that this generation is more media savvy than others, and comfortable using online tools for research. This is good news when it comes to recalls. By staying on top of recall news, you can learn about potential problems sooner and get the help you need.

To stay on top of possible recalls:

  • Get information about your devices from your providers, including the device name, model number, serial number, and date of manufacturer. You will need this information to confirm that your device is part of a recall.
  • Check the FDA recalls database on a regular basis to see if your device has been recalled. You can also sign up for email or text alerts from the FDA on new recalls.
  • Consider setting up a Google Alert for any news about your device. Any time your device appears in the news, you’ll receive an email with a link to the story.
  • Respond to all notices you receive from your doctor, health insurance carrier, or manufacturer regarding recalls.

If your medical device is part of a recall, the most likely outcome is that it will be repaired or replace. However, if you suffer an injury due to a recalled medical device, you may be able to receive compensation from the device manufacturer. Again, it’s best to contact an attorney in that case, and act based on his or her device. In any case, it’s important to stay on top of recall news as part of protecting your health.

Cher Zevala is a content coordinator who assists in contributing quality articles on various topics. In her free time she also enjoys hiking, traveling and getting to know the world around her. Cher has built up many strong relationships over the years within the blogging community and loves sharing her useful tips with others.

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