The importance of HF testing in design

PUBLISHED 25th June 2018

Yesterday The Sunday Times printed an exclusive about the use of an automatic syringe driver used in the NHS and beyond, which may have been linked to widespread deaths among elderly patients.

According to the article, one model of the infusion pump was designed to deliver an hour’s medication whereas a very similar model was designed to deliver the same drug over 24 hours. The two models of the infusion pump were very similar in design which apparently caused confusion. Some hospitals stocked both devices, and the claim is that tired and busy healthcare professionals may have mistakenly set the pump to deliver a day’s dose of strong painkillers in one hour.

There was also no way of stopping a bolus once it had been started, which again may have led to overdosing.

This potential confusion starkly illustrates the absolute necessity for human factors and usability testing in the design of new medical devices as well as the importance of post-market surveillance. The importance of simulating the use scenarios, and involving users early is not just a ‘nice-to-have’. It is essential, and is something that we treat with the utmost importance in our work on devices.

The infusion pump was withdrawn from use in the NHS in 2015. You can read more about this story on the BBC website at