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5 Key ISO Standards Every Medical Device Developer Must Know

Developing medical devices is a complex process, requiring a deep understanding of both technical and regulatory aspects. To ensure safety, efficacy, and quality, developers must adhere to a variety of international standards. Among these, ISO standards play a pivotal role in guiding manufacturers through the intricate landscape of medical device development. This article highlights five key ISO standards that are essential for any medical device developer to know, understand, and implement.

Key Takeaways

  • ISO 13485 is critical for establishing a quality management system that meets regulatory requirements and ensures the consistent design, development, and production of medical devices.

  • ISO 14971 provides a thorough framework for managing risks associated with medical devices, ensuring that potential hazards are identified, evaluated, and mitigated.

  • ISO 10993-1 is essential for assessing the biological safety of medical devices, guiding the evaluation and testing within a risk management context.

  • ISO 15223-1 helps standardize symbols and labeling for medical devices, facilitating clear communication and information provision to users and patients.

  • ISO 14155 outlines the principles of good clinical practice for the design, conduct, recording, and reporting of clinical investigations carried out on human subjects.

1. ISO 13485: Medical devices - Quality management systems - Requirements for regulatory purposes

ISO 13485 is the internationally recognized standard for quality management systems in the medical device industry. It outlines the requirements for a comprehensive management system for the design and manufacture of medical devices. Adherence to this standard is often seen as the first step in achieving compliance with regulatory requirements.

Key elements of ISO 13485 include:

  • Establishment of a quality management system

  • Management responsibility

  • Resource management

  • Product realization

  • Measurement, analysis, and improvement

It is essential for medical device developers to understand and implement ISO 13485 as it is often a prerequisite for regulatory submissions and commercialization in global markets. The standard's emphasis on risk management and customer satisfaction aligns with the goal of ensuring the efficacy and safety of medical devices.

2. ISO 14971: Medical devices - Application of risk management to medical devices

ISO 14971 is a pivotal standard for the medical device industry, focusing on the application of risk management throughout the lifecycle of a device. Ensuring patient safety and meeting regulatory requirements are its primary goals.

The standard outlines a systematic process for manufacturers to identify hazards, estimate and evaluate associated risks, control these risks, and monitor the effectiveness of the controls. It emphasizes the importance of considering both the benefits and risks of medical devices to optimize patient safety.

Key elements of ISO 14971 include:

  • Hazard identification

  • Risk estimation and evaluation

  • Risk control measures

  • Post-production information

3. ISO 10993-1: Biological evaluation of medical devices - Part 1: Evaluation and testing within a risk management process

ISO 10993-1 is a critical standard for ensuring the biocompatibility of medical devices. It outlines a framework for evaluating the potential risks associated with the biological interactions of medical devices. The standard emphasizes a risk management approach to biological testing, which is essential for patient safety.

Biocompatibility assessments are integral to the development and regulatory approval of medical devices. This standard guides manufacturers through a series of steps, including:

  • Identification of potential hazards related to materials and design

  • Estimation of the associated risks

  • Implementation of risk control measures

  • Verification and validation of the effectiveness of these measures

Compliance with ISO 10993-1 is often a prerequisite for regulatory submissions and is considered a best practice in the medical device industry. It is a dynamic standard that evolves with scientific understanding and technological advancements, ensuring that it remains relevant and effective.

4. ISO 15223-1: Medical devices - Symbols to be used with medical device labels, labelling and information to be supplied - Part 1: General requirements

The ISO 15223-1 standard is crucial for ensuring that medical devices are accompanied by clear and understandable symbols. These symbols facilitate global comprehension and safe usage of medical devices by healthcare professionals and patients alike.

  • Consistency in symbols across different devices

  • Reduction of language barriers

  • Enhancement of safety through clear communication

Adherence to this standard is not just about compliance; it's about ensuring that every aspect of a medical device's labelling is designed with the end-user in mind. From the symbol indicating 'sterile' to the one denoting 'do not reuse', each icon carries significant meaning. It is the responsibility of the medical device developer to integrate these symbols into their product design effectively.

5. ISO 14155: Clinical investigation of medical devices for human subjects - Good clinical practice

ISO 14155 is pivotal for developers as it outlines the standards for designing, conducting, recording, and reporting clinical investigations carried out in human subjects to assess the safety or performance of medical devices. This standard ensures that clinical trials are conducted ethically and that the data generated is credible and reliable.

The standard emphasizes the protection of the rights, safety, and well-being of trial subjects, making it a cornerstone of ethical medical device development. It provides a framework for regulatory compliance, aligning with international requirements and facilitating the global acceptance of clinical data.

  • Ethical considerations

  • Study planning

  • Conduct of the clinical trial

  • Data collection and management

  • Establishment of clinical investigation reports


Navigating the complex landscape of ISO standards is crucial for medical device developers to ensure safety, quality, and regulatory compliance. The five key ISO standards discussed in this article provide a foundational framework for the design, production, and post-market surveillance of medical devices. While these standards are a starting point, developers should be aware that there are numerous other standards applicable to specific devices or processes. For a comprehensive understanding, developers are encouraged to explore further resources, such as the detailed guide on the 75 most important standards for medical device development available at Operon Strategist. Adherence to these standards not only facilitates market entry but also fosters trust with healthcare professionals and patients, ultimately contributing to the advancement of medical technology and patient care.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why is ISO 13485 important for medical device developers?

ISO 13485 is crucial because it outlines the requirements for a comprehensive quality management system specific to the medical device industry. Compliance with this standard ensures that organizations consistently meet regulatory requirements and customer expectations regarding the quality and safety of their medical devices.

What does ISO 14971 cover in the context of medical devices?

ISO 14971 provides a framework for manufacturers to identify, evaluate, control, and monitor the risks associated with medical devices throughout their entire lifecycle. It helps developers implement a risk management process to ensure the safety and effectiveness of their products.

How does ISO 10993-1 assist in the biological evaluation of medical devices?

ISO 10993-1 sets out the principles for evaluating the biocompatibility of medical devices. It guides developers through a risk management process to assess potential biological hazards and conduct appropriate testing to ensure the safety of the devices when they come into contact with the human body.

What is the significance of ISO 15223-1 for medical device labeling?

ISO 15223-1 specifies symbols and labeling requirements for medical devices. It ensures that labels are clear, unambiguous, and standardized across different regions, which is essential for the safe and effective use of medical devices by healthcare professionals and patients.

Why should medical device developers be familiar with ISO 14155?

ISO 14155 provides guidelines for the design, conduct, recording, and reporting of clinical investigations. Familiarity with this standard helps developers conduct clinical trials in a manner that protects human subjects and generates reliable clinical data.

Where can I find more information about important ISO standards for medical device development?

You can find detailed information about the most important ISO standards for medical device development, including a deep dive into 75 key standards, at


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