Institutional decision-making to select patient care devices: identifying venues to promote patient safety

J Biomed Inform. 2003 Feb-Apr;36(1-2):31-44. doi: 10.1016/s1532-0464(03)00055-8.


Many medical errors that involve drug infusion devices are related to classic interface problems. Although manufacturers are becoming increasingly aware of human factors design considerations, many devices that are currently on the market are still sub-optimal for human use. This places significant responsibility for device selection on institutional purchasing groups. Theories of naturalistic decision-making point to many potential strengths and pitfalls of group decision-making processes that may affect the final outcome. This paper describes a retrospective analysis of decision-making process for infusion pump selection in a large hospital and focuses on factors related to patient safety. Through a series of detailed interviews and a study of relevant documentation we characterized the nature of the decision-making, patterns of communication, and the roles of different participants. Findings show that although the process involves a number of different professional groups and committees, the information flow among them is restricted. This results in inadequate representation of critical device usability considerations in the decision-making process. While all participants view device safety as an important consideration in the selection process, administrators (who are the final decision-makers) tend to equate safety with technical accuracy and reliability, paying less attention to the role of human factors in safe device use. Findings suggest that collaborative communication technology and automated evidence-based guidelines could provide support to institutional decision-making, ensuring that the process is efficient, effective, and ultimately safe for the patients.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Evaluation Study
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Decision Making, Organizational*
  • Decision Support Techniques*
  • Equipment Safety / methods*
  • Equipment Safety / psychology
  • Ergonomics / methods
  • Ergonomics / psychology
  • Group Processes
  • Infusion Pumps*
  • Patient Care Management / methods
  • Patient Care Management / organization & administration*
  • Patient Care Team / organization & administration
  • Safety Management / methods
  • Safety Management / organization & administration*
  • Technology Assessment, Biomedical / methods
  • Technology Assessment, Biomedical / organization & administration*
  • Tissue and Organ Procurement / organization & administration*
  • United States