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Nuts! I Can't Figure Out How to Use My Life-Saving Epinephrine Auto-Injector!

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Background: Epinephrine auto-injectors for food allergy emergency treatment is used as a case study to illustrate how human factors in device design has an impact on proper management of anaphylaxis. Because timely injection is so crucial, epinephrine comes in preloaded syringes or auto-injectors that patients can carry with them. However, many factors influence whether treatment is carried out properly.

Human Factors Engineering (HFE) Analysis: The incidence of incorrectly using auto-injectors is not isolated; studies have shown that a significant proportion of patients, and even physicians, do not know how to correctly use the devices. Some auto-injectors appear to be modeled with a metaphor in mind (a pen), but they do not appear and operate consistently with the metaphor. In addition, the device is difficult to transport. The portability issue creates a challenge that cannot be adequately addressed with traditional intervention measures—reminders or more education. They are all human factors issues and require human factors-based interventions.

Summary: Although education and training in how to use an auto-injector are important for effective management of anaphylaxis, a poorly designed device can lead to incorrect operation of such a device. HFE can improve device design so that it is reliably and correctly used even with minimal training. Manufacturers, allergists/immunologists, and pharmacists all have critical roles to play to ensure the correct use of this lifesaving device.

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: April 1, 2004

More about this publication?
  • Published monthly, The Joint Commission Journal on Quality and Patient Safety is a peer-reviewed publication dedicated to providing health professionals with the information they need to promote the quality and safety of health care. The Joint Commission Journal on Quality and Patient Safety invites original manuscripts on the development, adaptation, and/or implementation of innovative thinking, strategies, and practices in improving quality and safety in health care. Case studies, program or project reports, reports of new methodologies or new applications of methodologies, research studies on the effectiveness of improvement interventions, and commentaries on issues and practices are all considered.

    Also known as Joint Commission Journal on Quality Improvement and Joint Commission Journal on Quality and Safety
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