Category Archives: Health Care

Lego Color Bricks

Lego Prosthetic

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This was just too cool not to share.

When Carlos Torres started designing his IKO Creative Prosthetic System, he hoped to do more than create just another artificial limb. He wanted something that would excite kids and help combat the social isolation the disabled often suffer alongside their physical injuries. To that end, he created a functional prosthetic arm that doubles as a Lego toy-set.

Pills and Pill Bottle

Trusting Hospital Web Sites

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When you are feeling ill, do you turn to the web to research your symptoms? This is a growing pastime for millions of people around the world. It is also the bane of doctors who find themselves faced with patients that have already diagnosed their conditions, decided on a treatment, and demand a particular medication or procedure.

But the truth is that we have very good reasons to research our symptoms in advance. The process for getting diagnosed by a professional has become incredibly difficult, time consuming, and expensive.

nutrition facts

Personalized Food Labels

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I have been involved in the design of nutrition labels for over 25 years and it still amazes me that they are not better than they could be, even just given what we already know and even more if we conduct a few well designed human factors studies. So whenever I see a new proposal, I am always eager to check it out.

The FDA has regulated food label nutrition claims such as ‘reduced sodium’ and ‘low fat’ since it began enforcing the Nutritional Label and Education Act in 1994. However, there has yet been no quantitative evidence that the FDA’s definitions of these quantifier terms correspond to consumers’ perceptions of what the terms mean. This study investigated three common quantifier terms used on food labels (reduced, low and free) in relation to four dietary components (fat, sugar, sodium and cholesterol).

smart stethoscope and teleconferencing camera


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Telemedicine has so many potential benefits that it is hard not to get excited when a reasonably promising solution surfaces. Just to list a few:

  • It could reduce the high costs of health care that are driving the US (and global) economy into the red.
  • It could reduce the co-pays for the patient when all a she needs is a quick look, some simple advice, or a phoned in prescription.
  • It could give rural residents access to the higher quality healthcare available in more urban areas or from academic medical centers.
  • It could help medical providers collaborate through more diverse teams.
  • It could allow physically or mentally challenged individuals access care without assistance.
Biograph for CT scans

Medical Device Usability

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The prevalence of medical errors and the difficulty of using medical devices are such common complaints among health care providers and patients that I won’t bore you with the usual statistics. I think we all know these are grand challenges for the HF/E profession. But a look back at a 2012 article in User Experience magazine by Shannon Clark and Ed Israelski reminded me of how little progress we seem to be making. They share a few famous health care human factors stories that we see in the mass media whenever there is a major incident, but then fade into the background when the general public’s limited attention span runs its course. I was reminded of this when reviewing the program of the 2015 Human Factors in Health Care conference.

Perhaps you have heard stories of a doctor operating on or amputating the wrong limb. Even though this is an age-old problem, some medical devices cause the user to confuse the sides of the body, consequently leading to recalls of the devices. Just last year, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recalled a software system because the interface led doctors to confuse the left and right sides of the brain when evaluating patients. Imagine the consequences of this design flaw during brain surgery!

Lifting a heavy box

Increasing Lift Strength with a Simple Idea

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This is an example of an ergonomic development that innovates by taking a novel perspective on an old problem. A team of researchers at Hiroshima University wanted to develop a low cost version of the exoskeleton suits that provide hydraulic or pneumatic power to help people lift extraordinary loads. But theirs accomplishes a similar feat with regular cloth and no electronic devices. How do they achieve this feat of magic?

A prototype for wearable equipment to support human motion has now been developed. This wearable equipment, called the Sensorimotor Enhancing Suit (SEnS), enhances sensorimotor functions by reducing the muscle load of the upper limbs. SEnS is inexpensive because it is made of flexible fabrics using regular cloth and does not include any electronic devices. SEnS assists human sensorimotor functions and improves the quality of life of not only elderly individuals but also healthy people who work under extreme conditions.

Homeless Man

Urban Environmental Design

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Since the HFES Annual Meeting this year is in Los Angeles, we thought we would take EID there for this week’s innovation Monday article. Specifically, to a new development in Los Angeles’ Skid Row neighborhood that shows a level of attention to the complete resident experience that is unusual in housing developments for the homeless. It was written up in the Most Innovative Companies issue of Fast Company that we have been featuring, although it was not on the official list, perhaps because it is not run by a private sector company. But it is still an example of innovative design and good human factors.

“There are still people who think we should isolate these individuals on the outskirts of town,” he says. “What we’re doing is part of a much larger movement. Affordable housing needs to be much more integrated in the physical fabric of the city you need to integrate other supportive services in the building to help create a bridge for these individuals back into culture. You can’t just give them an apartment and expect things to work out.”


One Year Anniversary

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In honor of the one year anniversary of EID’s relaunch (check out our first post ever here) under our new format, we thought we would copy an innovative technique used by Ta-Nehisi Coates. In addition to being a brilliant, award winning writer, he is also credited for having one of the best comment management strategies for his blog at The Atlantic magazine. One dimension of his strategy, which seems obvious on the surface but is incredibly rare, is to start with the assumption that some…

a small computing device clipped to a pocket to track movement

Fitbits for People with Multiple Sclerosis

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I have written before about wearables. They are a nice toy, but in general they don’t really do anything particularly useful, at least not with the current technology. This week, I read about a great application in health care, and I think it works.

Drugmaker Biogen Idec is exploring ways to use fitness trackers to gather data from people who suffer from multiple sclerosis (MS), an autoimmune disease that affects the brain and spinal cord.

a pile of cigarettes

Addiction and Anhedonia

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I had never heard of the term before I read this article from the British Psychological Society’s Research Digest. When an addict is going through withdrawal, one of the symptoms of course is craving. Addicts physically and psychologically crave the drug they are withdrawing from. But anhedonia is the phenomenon in which addicts going through withdrawal also experience a generalized inability to enjoy other pleasures…