The Human Factors and Ergonomics Society (HFES) Health Care Symposium brings together professionals from diverse disciplines to share their knowledge and expertise on human factors and ergonomics. The 12th International Symposium on Health Care offered an excellent opportunity for attendees to connect with experts in the field and exchange valuable ideas and best practices as we move towards improving the healthcare system.
One of the highlights of HFES was a panel discussion on the safe use of medical devices, which featured five members representing diverse disciplines. The panel included a registered nurse and clinical safety officer, as well as four human factors experts with different backgrounds, including a university research professor, a practitioner embedded within a pediatric hospital, a practitioner from a medical device development company, and a practitioner from a product development consultancy – our very own Dr. Andrew Miranda.
The discussion provided valuable insights into the challenges faced by healthcare professionals and the role that human factors and ergonomics can play in improving patient safety. This blog post features a Q&A providing insight into Andrew Miranda’s unique viewpoint.
About a 6-minute read
As a Senior Human Factors Specialist, much of my work centers around developing and executing human factors evaluations of various technologies, including medical devices in accordance with FDA Human Factors Guidelines. While attending the HFES Health Care Symposium, I was interested in learning from my counterparts at other consultancies, as well as from frontline users within hospital settings, regarding their experiences developing and using medical devices.
Sr. Human Factors Specialist
I bring two distinct experiences to the table. Firstly, coming from a consultancy, I have experience working with a variety of different medical devices at varying stages of development, oftentimes with clients that do not have in-house human factors specialists. These partnerships allow us to learn from each other, whether it be us educating them on proper research methodology, or us learning the process of medical product development from their designers and engineers.
Secondly, prior to my time at Priority Designs, I worked in the U.S. Navy as a Human Factors practitioner. I have experience using human factors methods during accident investigation, which brought a unique perspective to how “human error” is examined, recorded, and analyzed as it relates to actual use.
I was most interested in discussing human error. During the product development process, we can clearly identify errors in simulated settings. When we’re testing devices in a laboratory setting with volunteer participants, we have the luxury of using pre-determined criteria that allows us to know when a device is not being used “properly.” However, real-world situations can be much more complex, such as a nurse working in understaffed conditions during the third shift. This setting can be much more challenging to use the device properly.
I was intrigued to hear my co-panelists perspectives on this topic, particularly our RN and clinical safety officer who has firsthand experience with medical equipment in demanding circumstances. For instance, she shared a story of a department in their hospital receiving new defibrillators. Each machine was equipped with a 9-page “job aid” for a user unfamiliar with the machine to reference when using. From a human factors perspective that is problematic, to say the least. Defibrillators are intended to be applied quickly in the event of sudden cardiac arrest, so asking users to read through several pages likely makes it difficult for them to use it.
We fielded numerous thought-provoking questions from various professionals, including healthcare providers, medical device specialists, and consultants.
A recurring topic discussed was how do we, as non-healthcare professionals, understand the real-world usage of medical equipment by healthcare professionals. An audience member shared a story of discovering videos on social media and being surprised by how some users interacted with medical materials. Such stories added to the panel’s fascination and made the discussion even more engaging.
The conference offered interesting presentations and discussions, including a great keynote speech by Dr. Peter Weinstock on applying human factors to healthcare. Dr. Weinstock, an expert on healthcare simulation from Boston Children’s, covered numerous topics, including the importance of applying human factors to understand the difference between “work-as-imagined” versus “work-as-done.”
Some of my personal favorite sessions occurred within the “Hospital Environment” tracks that were notable for sharing real-world constraints and successes in applying human factors principles.
One team shared their story of when the Joint Commission (a regular agency overlooking patient safety) limited the use of power strips in operating rooms. The human factors and facilities teams had to come up with a creative workaround so the electrical equipment could safely be powered for use. Learning about these types of real-world constraints I believe is essential for the successful application of human factors principles.
Discussions also focused on the current FDA guidance on human factors for medical devices, with many feeling the strain of the ever-evolving process, but with optimism for improvement through continued dialogue.
The HFES Conference served as an excellent forum for professionals from various backgrounds to collaborate and exchange knowledge and skills on human factors and ergonomics. It is crucial to maintain these discussions on applying human factors to healthcare, considering real-world limitations and successes in implementing these principles.
Our team is enthusiastic about continuing to tackle such projects, drawing on our expertise in conducting formative and validation studies, as well as our experience in safety and healthcare settings. We are confident in our ability to meet the challenge and deliver results.