Human Factors Engineering

Technical innovation has allowed many strides in healthcare, but it also presents its own set of problems. In a recent study of hospital-based nurses, over half indicated that they had witnessed a medical error that was caused by lack of coordination between patient care devices. In addition, almost half of those surveyed also stated that interaction with bedside devices was the most inefficient use of their time.

This study highlights two important aspects of the medical devices industry. One of the most important aspects of medical device design is human factors engineering, or an assessment of how the device will function in the hands of the person who is actually using it. What may be intuitive to a biomedical engineer or software designer may be confusing or cumbersome to the nurse or patient using the device. The FDA issued a guidance in 2012 outlining the agency's expectations for human factors data in medical device design, which underscores the importance of the topic. In regard to the aforementioned nurses' study, how might more careful human factors engineering mitigate errors that occur due to transcribing of data? Changes in screen display, greater prominence of the most critical data, or other modifications might help to reduce errors.

This study also highlights the growing need for agile, custom solutions within the medical device industry. Because there is no one, monolithic manufacturer of bedside (and other) medical devices, interconnectivity amongst devices from different manufacturers can usually only be achieved by custom software solutions that are specific to the devices in use by a particular institution. Such solutions are possible, however. At Velentium, we have extensive experience in creating custom software projects that connect otherwise isolated machines, in both the medical devices and oil and gas industries, where safety and reliability are critical. Once challenged to describe what we do at Velentium at a level my second-grade son could understand, I came up with the fact that we can make "any computer talk to any machine"—or in this case, any series of machines. Any number of bedside devices could be reduced to one intuitive, tablet-based user-interface with which nurses interact, eliminating the need for transcription of data.

It is an exciting time to be a part of the medical device industry. We are reaching new heights of technological capability, and learning how to solve our own problems as we identify them. Velentium could not be more thrilled to be a part of both developing medical devices and solving problems that arise from their use. It fits right into our passion for using technology to "improve lives for a better world".