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Human Factors Central to Device Testing At VA in Pittsburgh

A new center at the VA in Pittsburgh Healthcare System is going to perform human factors testing on commonly-used medical devices.  

Arundhati Parmar

A new center at the VA in Pittsburgh Healthcare System - Center for Medical Product End-user Testing - has been established to perform human factors testing on commonly-used medical devices.

The patient safety center based at the health care system’s University Drive campus aims to evaluate medical products before they are bought and used to treat patients at VA medical facilities nationwide.

"The Center for Medical Product End-user Testing will use objective metrics to assess the impact that the products have on provider performance in situations that mirror the real-world clinical environment," said Jamie Estock, the VA Pittsburgh researcher leading the center’s evaluation team, in an email. "Our human factors evaluations involve intended users of the medical product performing representative tasks under variable and sometimes stressful conditions."

External defibrillators will be reviewed first and the study is currently being designed, while electrosurgical units will be evaluated in fiscal year 2016 and smart fusion pumps will undergo usability testing in fiscal year 2017. The center aims to leverage VA Pittsburgh’s clinical simulation center to conduct these tests

"Human factors evaluations in simulation allow us to improve patient safety through rigorous testing of medical products without exposing patients to risk," Estock said.

One of the end resiults of this evaluation is to help make good purchasing decisions across the VA system. That will likely happen through the web-based product comparison tool that the center is being funded to create. It will contain a comprehensive database of medical product safety information, including the human factors evaluation results, Estock said.

Human factors or usability testing is something that is sorely needed in the healthcare world.

"There is a disconnect between those that design medical devices and those that use them," said Dr. Raj Khandwalla, a cardiologist with Cedars Sinai Medical Group at the MD&M West tradeshow and conference Thursday in Anaheim, California.

[Photo Credit: user Palto]  

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