AED Accessories – why don’t manufacturers make them interchangeable?
If you buy a new Android-based smartphone, chances are fairly good the charging cord you had for your old one will work on the new one, regardless of manufacturer. And your earbuds/headphones regardless of the device. So why don’t AED manufacturers have interchangeable accessories such as electrode pads and batteries? Why can’t you take the electrode pads from your Defibtech Lifeline and plug them into your ZOLL AED Plus? It may seem like the manufacturers want you to be tied into their products for the life of the device. They do, but for good reason.
Each manufacturer has its own proprietary electrode pad and battery technology, even though all AEDs work basically the same. For a more thorough understanding of each, you can reference the AED Superstore “FAQ – AED Electrode Pads and Batteries” guide. Keep in mind these are life-saving devices!
Since they are Class III medical devices, AEDs cleared for sale in the US must undergo rigorous testing by the FDA and, as of February 2015, they must also go through the Premarket Approval (PMA) process. According to the FDA website: “The PMA process allows the FDA to review quality systems and manufacturing information; conduct pre-approval inspections; review changes in manufacturing facilities where devices are made; and review design and manufacturing changes that affect safety and effectiveness to ensure that the changes are adequately evaluated and tested prior to implementation.” The process is not only thorough, it is also quite an expensive investment. All components of an AED are evaluated, and a manufacturer can spend tens of millions of dollars to get clearance. When spending that kind of money, they want to be sure every component has been thoroughly tested to work flawlessly together. By building a device that uses accessories developed specifically FOR that device, they have full control of the device’s functionality. If an AED fails during a rescue (and yes, it has happened – albeit very rarely), determining the cause of the failure is much easier when all components are made and tested as a unit to decide if a recall is necessary.
There are third party accessories available for some AEDs but using them opens you up to risks you do not want to take. For more on that topic, see “AED Accessories – Third party brands may put you at risk.”