INFORMING FUTURE VENTILATORS
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A robust applied research study to improve healthcare design and safety

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Need

Mechanical ventilators are central to treating patients in intensive care units (ICUs), providing breathing support for patients who are debilitated and cannot breathe effectively. While ventilator technologies are life-saving, they are often designed without much consideration of the potential harm that the person operating the machine can have on the wellbeing of the patient. In a critical life-or-death moment, where not a second can be wasted, there is insufficient time to decipher between complex operating modes or the meanings of icons on a screen.

While usability testing is one of the most effective methods to identify use-related risks associated to medical devices, there is a lack of literature supporting the rigorous comparison of the usability of different medical devices on the market. Without this knowledge, it can be challenging for hospitals to understand which device is best suited for the safety of their patients and employees, as well as for manufacturers to learn best practices when designing the next generation of their product.

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Our Service

In order to identify which design elements affect the safety of medical devices and the user experience, we undertook the most comprehensive study to date to compare four ventilators from leading brands in North America. We invited 48 respiratory therapists to use the machines, and observed their behaviour as they completed day-to-day tasks. In addition to our qualitative analyses, we applied three different statistical models to quantitatively analyze and compare the results. Through this study, Healthcare Human Factors developed a novel rigorous methodology for comparative usability testing, combining the power of qualitative data with the rigour of quantitative research methods.

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Working with a medical device manufacturer, who was willing to compare their own product to their competitor’s products on the market, and make the results and methods publicly available, was very refreshing

Dr. Plinio Morita, Affiliated Scientist

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Results

Our results showcased how certain elements of design affected use-safety and user experience amongst the selected ventilators, and provided grounded recommendations and considerations for the future design of medical devices. Access the full results of this study here.

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