The Effects of User-Centered Design on the Usability of Patient Handling Equipment
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Patient transfers are a daily occurrence in numerous hospital and nursing home facilities, as well as homecare settings. Patient transfers require the use of patient handling equipment to reduce the physical loading during patient lifts as compared to when patients are transferred manually by one or two individuals. When used, this equipment is thought to reduce the risk of low back injuries by eliminating the manual lifting requirements otherwise faced by healthcare workers. However, the introduction of patient handling equipment into the workplace has brought about challenges and concerns from a usability perspective, and the usability of the equipment has not been tested in a systematic way. The purpose of the current study is to determine the usability of existing patient handling equipment, including slings, and to test design changes that are hypothesized to make the equipment easier to use. The study first involved a focus group of practicing nurses, certified nursing assistants, and other healthcare professionals to identify challenges in the design of current patient lifting aides and potential design solutions. Then, a usability study was performed to evaluate differences in usability between the current equipment and equipment with design modifications supported by the focus group. Each participant was placed randomly in one of the two conditions (Original or Modified Equipment). Each participant was asked to perform a patient transfer from a bed to a commode. Errors, time, perceived physical exertion (RPE), and a usability survey tool were all used to evaluate both the original and modified equipment. Results suggest that simple improvements to existing patient lifting equipment can be made to improve usability.