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The purpose of this essay was to propose how human factors could be incorporated in innovative design systems. Hemodialysis devices were chosen for the essay because of the rising number of patients with kidney failures and complexity of such devices and treatment environments. Conventional designs did not focus on human factors in designs.
Instead, they utilized technology to appeal to their markets. However, later hemodialysis devices focused on incorporating human factors in design. They have continued to account for both patient and physicians’ needs. It is expected that the innovative designs will enhance usability and user experiences, reduce human actions, errors and costs of medical interventions.
Hemodialysis is a complex renal replacement intervention used when kidneys can no longer function effectively. Today, the number of patients with kidney failures has increased and such patients need a higher level of care and more specialized, individualized treatment and management.
A study conducted by Lameire, Biesen and Vanholder (2009) showed that for the last 20 years, “impressive technological innovations have been introduced in the field of hemodialysis, but the major technological advances in dialysis have not yet been translated into longer patient survival” (p. S30). These technological advances perhaps have not accounted for human factors in design.
This essay shows that innovative designs for hemodialysis, which incorporate human factors, could enhance patient outcomes and improve quality of care.
Background Information and Relevance of the Topic
The number of patients who require hemodialysis has continued to rise alongside costs of treatment. The dialysis industry has been critical in introducing innovative devices to assist with treatment and patient management.
The complexity of the interventions could lead to human errors. Hence, it is imperative to incorporate human factors in the system design so that a device can account for both human capabilities and limitations while enhancing ease of use, safety and patient outcomes.
Yen and Woolley (2003) have observed that treatments should be directly linked to patient needs. However, the traditional models have been physician-centered (Yen & Woolley, 2003). This could affect patient care and outcomes.
There is a shift toward patient-centered approaches in the healthcare sector with a specific focus on meeting unique, diverse needs and expectation of patients. Therefore, healthcare equipment designs have responded to such needs and expectations by incorporating elements of human factors in system designs (Wiklund, 1995).
Hemodialysis devices are relevant for this topic because they depict several contemporary designs of significance. First, hemodialysis devices incorporate new technologies to deliver advanced patient care relative to other medical devices. These devices have continued to evolve as many physicians and patients embrace them. They hold greater potential for future patient interventions. Second, hemodialysis devices are critical in sustaining patients’ lives during end-stage renal care.
Consequently, there is a need to understand their physical and psychological impacts on patients for further improvements. In other words, a device must meet its medical functions of sustaining the patient’s life and enhancing the quality of care (Yen & Woolley, 2003). In addition, physicians also need devices, which are easy to use. Finally, several interventions for patients are available under hemodialysis. As such, patients and physicians can choose the best method to ensure improved outcomes.
As previously mentioned, Lameire et al. (2009) have noted that the past two decades have seen the rise in “impressive technological innovations in the area of hemodialysis” (p. S30). These researchers aimed to determine whether these innovations resulted into better patient survival, but found that the “major technological advances in dialysis were not yet translated into longer patient survival” (Lameire et al., 2009, p. S30). Hence, much research and innovation in the field of hemodialysis are available.
Initially, Yen and Woolley (2003) demonstrated that conventional dialysis devices consisted of many assembled parts. By 1960s, hemodialysis was a well-established field of treatment, but devices were poor in quality. Equipment designers focused on “serviceability, reliability and cost reduction and to promote the use of hemodialysis intervention” (Yen & Woolley, 2003, p. 4). In addition, clinical efficiency remained a significant area for consideration.
Computer models dominated later stages of device design systems. Consequently, a ‘modular’ design concept was adopted to cater for various clinical and intervention requirements. Various components could be modified or expanded to enhance functionality. While previous devices were designed to meet industrial aesthetics, the new devices aimed to offer patient-friendly appearance.
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This implies that users and designers had recognized the need to incorporate human factors in their designs, but the concepts were not fully explored. Nevertheless, these devices were difficult to assemble and maintenance presented a major challenge because of several complicated components and design.
Hemodialysis equipment designed in the computer era focused on maintaining “the patient in a more holistic and integrated manner” (Yen & Woolley, 2003, p. 7). The design systems could capture medical data. However, the design systems of hemodialysis devices failed to account for human factors. Instead, they were ‘high-tech’ oriented and not focused on actual user needs. The design concepts were market-oriented.
However, later developments focused on improving portability. Initially, machines were difficult to transport. This situation only caused inconveniences to users. Nevertheless, new designs transformed conventional models and new amazing models emerged. These new models focused on meeting needs of patients, including portability.
Today, there are several highly innovative devices, which offer revolutionary approaches to hemodialysis. For instance, a new device can directly access “vascular, allowing the device to work in compatibility with the naturally occurring high blood-flow rates in the femoral vein” (Varrasi, 2011).
Description of the Innovation
The proposed innovative design for the hemodialysis equipment should account for both patient and physicians’ need by incorporating human factors in the design. The state-of-the-art hemodialysis device can be highly efficient when user needs are incorporated in the design. It is expected that the innovative designs will continue to incorporate human capabilities and account for human limitations while enhancing safety, performance, user satisfaction and reducing medical errors.
First, the device design system should be able to adapt to unique needs of patients. Every patient is unique. The new design should account for compatibility and adaptation so that the device can cater for conventional, high flux or advanced hemodialysis treatment and management. They should incorporate intelligent control systems so that the system can adjust interventions based on the condition of the patient. This would result in improved comfort and a consistent treatment provision.
Second, the innovative design system should incorporate needs of physicians and operating environments. Dialysis patients are medically unstable and therefore their treatments are equally complex, demanding and stressful. This is a major issue for renal physicians. Hence, hemodialysis devices should be user-friendly in design to reduce cases of human error (McSweeney, Pray, & Craig, 2009).
In other words, a complex device should be easy and safe to use. Hence, the design process should incorporate human factors for ease of user interaction. This would lead to effective medical care and enhanced user experiences. It should reduce time spent when preparing for treatment.
Third, the system should be easy to learn and use. Installation procedures and manual should not be complex. For instance, the modern devices should incorporate wide touch-screen interfaces. This would give the user an opportunity to control the system and improve decision-making abilities.
The design system should reduce the frequency of user interaction and risks of human errors and misuse. For instance, innovative blood module should reduce such interactions. All components and their locations should offer instinctive and efficient handling. These unique attributes when incorporated in system designs enhance user experiences.
Finally, the system design should improve the complex work environment of renal care professionals. That is, physicians should express positive outcomes when interacting with the system while patients should also depict less physical and psychological discomfort. The overall innovative design impression should be positive to users while lowering costs incurred the healthcare industry. Therefore, innovative ergonomic design will lead to user acceptance and preference (Wiklund, 1995).
Patients who require hemodialysis have continued to increase. Technological advancements play critical roles in ensuring that medical devices meet user needs. Hence, innovative system designs must incorporate elements of human factors to improve usability and reduce human errors.
Unlike conventional hemodialysis devices that were high-tech driven and market oriented, new models have continued to incorporate elements of human factors in the designs. Consequently, modern hemodialysis devices aim to improve usability and user experiences, reduce human actions, errors and costs of medical interventions by incorporating human factors in the design.
Lameire, N., Biesen, V. W., & Vanholder, R. (2009). Did 20 Years of Technological Innovations in Hemodialysis Contribute to Better Patient Outcomes? Clinical Journal of the American Society of Nephrology, 4(Suppl 1), S30-S40. doi: 10.2215/CJN.04000609.
McSweeney, K., Pray, J., & Craig, B. (2009). Integration of Human Factors Engineering into Design: An applied Approach. Web.
Varrasi, J. (2011). Biomedical Innovation Improves Dialysis Outcomes. Web.
Wiklund, M. (1995). Medical Device and Equipment Design: Usability Engineering and Ergonomics. Buffalo Grove, IL: Interpharm Press.
Yen, C.-C., & Woolley, M. S. (2003). Designing for Patient-Centeredness: the Design of Hemodialysis Equipment. Web.