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Human Factors Engineering

What is Human Factors?

For those who don’t know what human factors is, it is the intersection of engineering and psychology. It is an exploration of how humans interact with products and services, and it involves much analysis: psychology-based analyses as well as usability testing.

In usability testing, we bring in one end user at a time and observe them interact with an artifact (e.g., a medical device). This observation, as well as interviewing the user, reveals the things to change about the design of the product. We gather our data from all these users, analyze it, and then work with clients to improve the design.

Why is Human Factors Important?

Imagine your mother is in the hospital. The oxygen tubing from her nebulizer becomes disconnected. A nurse who is nearing the end of her busy 12-hour shift mistakenly reattaches the oxygen connection to her IV tubing Y-site instead of the nebulizer. Within seconds the mistake is realized, but it is too late. She dies from an air embolism. With design of unique dedicated connections the mistake could have been prevented and your mother would be alive today. Although this example may seem extreme, with more than 200,000 deaths from medical errors in hospitals in the U.S., this is a possible reality. This example and many like it is why human factors engineering in medical product development is so important. Not only does human factors engineering during design reduce overall risk of use error for medical devices and combination products but it also improves your chances of developing a medical product that will “delight” your customer.

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