Trustees Week

10 November 2022

Our Chair of Trustees, John Wilkinson shares how important volunteering is for him as part of Trustees Week 2022.

As a regulator reliant on good data to enable well-informed decision-making on the performance of medical devices, I was always aware of the importance of sharing data with peer regulators, especially if the data that I had to look at was thin and inconclusive. This was the case most of the time. Sharing data appears easy but this is far from the case and one of the biggest challenges is ensuring that all are looking at the same products or variants. This is where the GMDN comes in.

I volunteered to become a Trustee of the GMDN Agency so that I could help in some small way the progress of global harmonisation and collaboration between regulators. This always seemed to me to be common sense given the global nature of both devices supply chains and their use. A good starting point for sharing information about product performance would be to have a globally agreed set of product descriptions to which individual products are assigned. GMDN has a pivotal role in facilitating this process but has barely touched the full potential of this role since it was established round the turn of the Millennium.

In an age of real-world data and massive real-time health-related information collection it is vital that regulators, manufacturers, health systems and researchers can mine this information to ascertain what interventions work well and separate those from the procedures that don’t work so well. This accelerates the adoption of high-value innovation as well as flagging up early those interventions that are not performing as planned. The latter can then be eliminated or modified to address their shortcomings.

Everyone benefits from early information about performance especially patients. It was this group of stakeholders that was at the front of my mind when I responded to an invitation to join the Board of Trustees at GMDN and, later-on, take on the role of chair.

A nomenclature which helps stakeholders develop, select and manage safe and effective medical device utilisation in health systems is what we are all about at GMDN and why I put so much of my time into supporting this vitally important small cog in the global patient-safety machine. Like my fellow Trustees, I give my time for free because I am committed to global harmonisation and its role in enhancing outcomes for patients.

I see a big future for GMDN as coding of databases becomes more effective and pooling data about the performance of interventions becomes more widespread and meaningful. Spotting both opportunities and problems early can have a massive impact on both the health of individuals and populations. Collaboration and service to stakeholders are key to our future success and I will support the Agency for as long as I am useful in that endeavour.