If you’ve ever spent any appreciable amount of time in a hospital or other medical care facility, you may have been driven temporarily insane by the never-ending chorus of medical device alarms. I was recently reminded of a few nights I spent in the hospital with my dad a year or so ago. Just when I thought I was drifting off to sleep, one of the infusion pumps delivering his pain medication would go off and wake both of us up. This got me thinking about alarm fatigue, and the drain that so many medical device alarms must have on medical staff, not to mention patients and family.
Last week I had the opportunity to attend the Human Factors & Ergonomics Society Health Care Symposium. Since I work on medical devices, I mainly went to the presentations in the medical devices track and found them to be very interesting and educational. The opening keynote speaker, Dr. Ross Ungerleider, talked about practices that foster an environment (particularly in an operating room) conducive to innovative thinking and learning from human error. There were a number of presenters from the medical device industry who shared case studies, lessons learned, and various models for applying usability in their individual companies and departments. We were also fortunate to learn about some changes coming for human factors standards and the latest FDA perspectives on best practices, which I thought I’d share with you this week.