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Input from clinical staff helps when evaluating the purchase of equipment

Research Activities, November 2009

The growing use of short-acting intravenous drugs for anesthesia and critical care require precision and accuracy hard to achieve with traditional gravity-fed drips. Thus a growing number of hospitals are using programmable, electromechanical infusion pumps. Hospitals considering the purchase of medical devices, such as infusion pumps, may want to use a more scientific approach when making these decisions, recommends a new study. It found that collaboration between human factors and clinical professionals can do much to inform equipment decisions and improve safety. The finding comes from the experience of a large, urban teaching hospital that decided to replace 600 old infusion pumps with a new model. Researchers in human factors analysis were brought in to review four pumps under consideration. Data were collected on operator-pump interaction, including provider tasks, device design, user interface, and other factors. Video recordings were used to document each user's performance while programming an infusion with each pump under consideration for purchase.

There was no association between the clinical experience of a provider and their ability to program any of the four pumps being considered. Differences in the pumps' use and favorite or disliked features were discovered among providers. After the field of pumps was narrowed down to two, purchasing preferences rather than clinical considerations determined the final selection. By bringing hospital staff and medical professionals together, adequate scientific analysis of medical devices can inform purchase decisions in a positive way while at the same time counteracting some of the pressurized sales tactics used by equipment vendors on hospital purchasing professionals, conclude the researchers. Their study was supported in part by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (HS17793). See “Between choice and chance: The role of human factors in acute care equipment decisions,” by Christopher Nemeth, Ph.D., Mark Nunnally, M.D., Yuval Bitan, Ph.D., and others, in the June 2009 Journal of Patient Safety 5(2), pp. 114-121.

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Page last reviewed November 2009
Internet Citation: Input from clinical staff helps when evaluating the purchase of equipment: Research Activities, November 2009. November 2009. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, MD.