Healthy & active through technology
Healthy & active through technology

Contact

DKE  German Commission for Electrical, Electronic & Information Technologies of DIN and VDE
Stresemannallee 15
60596 Frankfurt am Main
Germany

Phone: +49 69 6308-0
Fax: +49 69 6308-9863
E-Mail: dke@vde.com

Health

Health and technology are tightly interwoven, in particular where technology plays a crucial role in the success of prevention, diagnostics, treatment or rehabilitation. Health develops safety and service-related specifications to protect patients, staff and other affected parties. This includes all technical products to maintain, improve and restore health, including daily support assistance systems. In addition, protection against ionising radiation is also discussed.

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What are the objectives of norms and standards with respect to Health?

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Depending on the version, medical devices have to perform very delicate tasks: They monitor endogenous functions, manipulate them and can even take the place of these functions, e.g. pacemakers. Sometimes, survival may even depend on the reliable functioning of such a medical device. But even if medical devices are not supposed to directly interfere with bodily functions, they must still strike a delicate balance between being beneficial and harmful, as in the case of X-ray devices, which should only X-ray body parts, not contaminate them with radiation.

Ultimately, for a variety of products it may not be obvious, due to their apparent commonality, that they are in fact medical devices which must meet high standards when used in hospitals everyday, such as electrically heated mattresses and blankets, and which must not pose any danger, even under adverse circumstances.

Standardisation in the Health sector therefore involves, above all, meeting safety and service-related specifications in order to protect patients, staff and private persons. This includes the development stage of health technologies and electronic devices in this field and spans to testing and certification. The consistent objective of work in the Health sector is for technology and innovations to continue to benefit people, not the reverse.

Contact

Dr. Klaus Neuder
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Where are norms and standards applied at Health?

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Health technologies and related services are found in every area of everyday life, starting from so-called "wearables", like fitness trackers or pulse watches in the private sector, to the issue of protecting patients and staff from radiation in the clinical environment. Wherever an electronic product is used to maintain, improve or restore health, there is also a starting point for standardisation work of Health.

The development of these products is clearly moving toward the progressive networking of everyday support assistance systems and the transition between health and comfort-related functions is becoming increasingly fluid.

"Ambient Assisted Living" (AAL), i.e. designing an "intelligent" home environment which supports the individual to the greatest possible extent and is also largely capable of compensating for age and illness-related limitations, is becoming increasingly more important for individuals and business.

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How do we benefit from norms and standards at Health in everyday life?

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Everyone’s everyday life is different. For private persons, x-rays are usually the exception, however, for staff at a radiological practice they are the rule. As an athlete, someone might wear a fitness tracker, but as a patient, more likely an ECG, both of which are electrically operated devices that are electroconductively connected to the body.

Regardless of whether at the dermatologist or dentist, for aesthetic or therapeutic purposes, people have to be able to rely on the safety of light and laser sources. Standardisation work of Health is being done there and in any other areas to sensibly connect health, technology and progress in our everyday lives.

To get to the point: What do lasers have to do with your health?

Light and health are closely connected. In our everyday lives, we are almost constantly being exposed to a variety of artificial light sources. It starts with simple ceiling lamps to the displays on smartphones and televisions and, in some rare cases, may even extend to high-power lasers. While light can even promote well-being when used properly, incorrect use can have the exact opposite effect in the worst case scenario. The consequences span from harmless, temporary phenomena such as glare or even severe, chronic damage to the eyes and skin.

In the medical and cosmetic sectors, one faces the special challenge that, on the one hand, (laser) light sources have to be intense enough for certain applications in order to modify tissue (e.g. including selective destruction!) and, on the other hand, patients and staff or other persons shouldn’t be exposed to the risk of unintended injury.

In cooperation with the DKE Work Group 812.0.1 "Lasers in Medicine", the DKE Joint Committee 841 "Optical Radiation Safety and Laser Devices" is undertaking the necessary standardisation work so that artificial light and laser sources in all areas of life are safe, controllable and benefit people.

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What are the objectives of norms and standards in the Optical Radiation Safety and Laser Devices sector?

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Lasers are among the most intense sources of radiation known to man. Even small lasers, such as those used in approved pointers, can reach ray densities (brightness) comparable to those of sunlight. In comparison, very strong lasers such as those used in telecommunication or industry, among other sectors, are between several million and a billion times more intense. Here, large quantities of data are sent from lasers across long distances at “light speed”, steel plates are laser-cut and welded in next to no time. The already conceivable shortest contact with the (often invisible!) laser beams can cause serious burns and permanent damage.

Standardisation in the Optical Radiation Safety and Laser Devices sector means, above all, making use of extremely useful and valuable tools, lasers, to make construction safe. This is done by evaluating and labelling of laser sources, installing laser protection walls or by securely designing communication networks.

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Where are norms and standards applied in the field of optical radiation safety and laser devices?

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Artificial light sources and lasers have become an integral part of our everyday lives and are no longer just used for lighting purposes. Displays on smartphones, laser diodes in Blu-Ray players, brake lights on cars are all examples of artificial light sources that are not primarily used for lighting.

There is also a wide range and variety of therapeutic and cosmetic applications of light, for instance, ocular lens operations using lasers, hardening plastic fillings at the dentist or removing a tattoo at the dermatologist.

Anywhere an artificial light source generates (laser) light, there is a starting point for the standardisation work of the DKE Joint Committee 841 with the “Standards Committee of Optics and Precision Mechanics” (NAFuO) in the DIN and DKE Work Group 812.0.1 "Lasers in Medicine".

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How do we, on a daily basis, profit from standards in the Optical Radiation Safety and Laser Devices sector?

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In our every day lives, we encounter laser "tools" more often that we may realise, whether it be in the supermarket (scanning checkouts), in the office (laser printers) or at home (DVD players). You can find such technology in use almost anywhere; under your feet (fibre optic cable), above your head (free-space communication systems), in transport (LIDAR), on building sites (cross-line lasers), at the opticians (LASIK) and in surgery (laser scalpels). The list could go on indefinitely.

Norms and standards form the basis of evaluating lasers based on their emission characteristics and classifying them accordingly. As a point of reference, scientific findings about the effect of visible and invisible laser radiation on the eye and skin are used for this. If the use of dangerous lasers is required, advanced protective measures such as encapsulation, laser protection screens and automatic power reductions which should minimise the injury potential of the laser equipment are described. In this sense, norms and standards make a very individual contribution to protecting our health in our day-to-day lives.