Air Force Tests Medical Devices

Lt. Col Brandi Ritter, Chief of the Air Force Medical Evaluation Support Activity (AFMESA) reports that the job of AFMESA is to test medical technology and devices to insure they meet the needs of medical Airmen and survive the rigors of deployment.

Situated at Ft. Detrick Maryland, AFMESA has its own testing site, complete with a ten bed Expeditionary Medical Support Hospital (EMEDS+10), a 44,000 square foot test pad, plus other on-site test facilities.

AFMESA engineers work together with Air Force clinicians to put medical devices in simulated field environment. The test facilities simulate many of the conditions medical airmen experience in the field. Having an EMEDS tent onsite is critical since most of the equipment is used in a deployed setting.

“We start by running the device through a functional verification test to make sure that it meets the manufacturer’s specifications,” said Ritter. “Then we bring in actual users, medics, who deliver care in the field and in military treatment facilities, and then let them interact with the device in a field setting.

The AFMESA testers observe medics interacting with the devices and document where they experience problems or frustration using a device. Recording these interactions helps the test team identify which parts of the device to scrutinize more closely.

Lt. Col. Lewis Wilber AFMESA Deputy Chief reports, “Many of the devices tested have already been approved by FDA. However, FDA doesn’t require the practical hands-on testing that we perform. A device that works fine in a normal hospital setting may not work when airmen use it in deployed environments. We make sure that Air Force procurement teams have the right information to supply our medics with technology that works under stress”

AFMESA medical testing groups include clinicians with expertise and experience in the field. This enables these testers to identify point of failure that other test engineers might not see. AFMESA knows that rarely do devices operate under ideal conditions especially out in the field and if a piece of equipment or device does not work right, the result can be a life lost.


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