Designing Devices With the Task in Mind: Which Numbers Are Really Used in Hospitals?

in Human Factors: The Journal of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society, Journal article


Objective: We studied the patterns of digits and numbers used when programming infusion pumps with the aim of informing the design of number entry interfaces.
Background: Number entry systems on medical devices are designed with little thought given to the numbers that will be entered. In other fields, text and number entry interfaces are designed specifically for the task that they will be used for. Doing so allows for faster and more accurate interaction.
Method: In Study 1, logs were taken from infusion pumps used in a hospital. Information about the numbers being typed was extracted. For Study 2, three common number entry interfaces were evaluated in light of these results to determine which were best suited to the task of programming infusions.
Results: There are clear patterns in the numbers being used in hospitals. The digit 0 is used far more frequently than any other digit. The numbers 1,000, 100, and 50 are used in nearly half of all infusions. Study 2 demonstrates that interfaces are not optimized for entering such data.
Conclusion: Changes could be made to the design of the number entry interface on infusion pumps,leading to a reduction in the number of key presses necessary to program a device.We offer a set of four heuristics to guide the design of number entry interfaces on infusion devices.
Application: Improving the design of the number entry interface of medical devices, such as infusion pumps, would lead to improved efficiency and a reduction in the likelihood of errors.