Objective: To explore the user-friendliness and ergonomics of seven new generation intensive care ventilators.
Design: Prospective task-performing study.
Setting: Intensive care research laboratory, university hospital.
Methods: Ten physicians experienced in mechanical ventilation, but without prior knowledge of the ventilators, were asked to perform eight specific tasks [turning the ventilator on; recognizing mode and parameters; recognizing and setting alarms; mode change; finding and activating the pre-oxygenation function; pressure support setting; stand-by; finding and activating non-invasive ventilation (NIV) mode]. The time needed for each task was compared to a reference time (by trained physiotherapist familiar with the devices). A time >180 s was considered a task failure.
Results: For each of the tests on the ventilators, all physicians' times were significantly higher than the reference time (P < 0.001). A mean of 13 +/- 8 task failures (16%) was observed by the ventilator. The most frequently failed tasks were mode and parameter recognition, starting pressure support and finding the NIV mode. Least often failed tasks were turning on the pre-oxygenation function and alarm recognition and management. Overall, there was substantial heterogeneity between machines, some exhibiting better user-friendliness than others for certain tasks, but no ventilator was clearly better that the others on all points tested.
Conclusions: The present study adds to the available literature outlining the ergonomic shortcomings of mechanical ventilators. These results suggest that closer ties between end-users and manufacturers should be promoted, at an early development phase of these machines, based on the scientific evaluation of the cognitive processes involved by users in the clinical setting.