December 7, 2020

Risk Benefit Analysis and Residual Risk are Key Components of ISO 14971:2019

Author: Nupur Srivastava, PhD 

The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) 14971:2019 places more emphasis on the risk to benefit ratio of medical devices, asking manufacturers to show that their device is not only safe but also provides a medical benefit. The reference to benefit is included throughout the standard, and the definition for “benefit” is included for the first time.  

ISO 14971:2019 Definition of Benefit: a positive impact or desirable outcome of the use of a medical device on the health of an individual, or a positive impact on patient management or public health. 

As outlined in the standard, risk has two key components:  

  • The probability of occurrence of harm; and 
  • The consequences of that harm, that is, how severe it might be. 

The newest ISO 14971:2019 standards emphasize that manufacturers need to demonstrate that the benefits outweigh the risks, as well as mitigating risks. Clause 7.4 of ISO 14971:2019 has even been retitled “Risk/Benefit Analysis” to align with regulatory changes.   

Examples “benefits” provided ISO 14971:2019: 

  • Positive impact on clinical outcome 
  • Patient’s quality of life 
  • Outcomes related to diagnosis 
  • Positive impact from diagnostic devices on clinical outcomes 
  • Positive impact on public health 

The guidance document ISO/TR 24971:2020 also provides clarification and examples of risk-benefit decisions. The TR 24971 provides three-page guidance on figuring out benefits and includes examples. The draft standard comprehends that manufacturers can change a product only if residual risks offset the benefits. 

Closeup of risk and benefit wooden blocks on seesaw against gray background

Risk-Benefit Analysis 

Industry expert and convener of ISO Technical Committee 210 and Joint Working Group 1 (TC210/JWG1), Jos Van Vroonhoven, and a member of ISO TC210/JWG1 and long-time industry expert, Don Powers, provided some insight on what this means for industry in an interview with Medtech Insight. The objective when developing the revision was to keep the reference standard document the same (as much as was possible) while aligning with global regulatory requirements and providing more clarification on how manufacturers can achieve regulatory compliance and provide benefit to patients. 

They stressed that manufacturers need to consider that this further guidance on risk-benefit analysis is designed to help in the estimation of anticipated benefits that is based on positive impact on clinical outcomes and related factors. Many factors can influence the risk-benefit balance, such as changes to medical practice, clinical data that confirms additional benefits to patients, change in the patient population that uses the device, and the introduction of other devices on the market.  

It is also recommended that manufacturers take a close look at Clause 10 of TR 24971:2020, which is full of helpful post-production information.  

Residual Risk 

In addition to defining benefits, ISO defined residual risk as the “risk remaining after risk control measures have been implemented.” 

ISO TR 24971:2020 provides further guidance on benefit-risk analysis, firstly by helping in estimation of anticipated benefits, based on positive impact on clinical outcomes and related factors, and then providing criteria for comparing benefit and risk to find if the overall residual risk is outweighed by the benefits. 

“In general, the benefit-risk analysis should not only include theoretical risks and benefits, but rather be supported by objective evidence. The benefit-risk evaluation can be done on individual residual risk or on the overall residual risk,” said Van Vroonhoven.  

In summarizing the benefit to risk analysis, Don Powers said companies should look at their overall residual risk, which they will always need to do in comparison to the benefits, regulatory requirements, and all applicable processes based on the guidelines of ISO 14971:2019 and TR 24971:2020.  

Regulatory authorities are now demanding that the balance for medical devices must favor the benefits and device manufacturers must conform to ISO 14971:2019 over the next few years if they have not done so already.  


Deadlines to Meet? 

Criterion Edge has a team of expert medical writers available to help your organization with Risk to Benefit Analysis in the Risk Management Reports and integration throughout the MDR and IVDR documents as you get ready to meet these new global regulatory challenges.  Please reach out to us for a free consult. 

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