Comparative Evaluation of IV PCA Infusion Pumps

Healthcare Human Factors


When University Health Network wanted to procure the safest and most efficient IV Patient Controlled Analgesia (PCA) pump to use in their hospitals, they asked Healthcare Human Factors to perform a comparison analysis of PCA pumps on the market. With support from the Acute Pain Service at UHN, the Healthcare Human Factors team conducted evaluations on three PCA pump products: the Graseby Omnifuse, the Harvard Clinical Single Channel, and the Alaris Medley.

The team conducted various methods routed in human factors engineering to identify product strengths and weaknesses in terms of usability and reduced error potential. These methods included:

  • Cognitive walkthroughs: Users were trained briefly on each product, and then asked to perform routine tasks on each pump. The users provided feedback about ease of completing each task and overall strengths and weaknesses by filling out a questionnaire.
  • Usability testing: A mock scenario of a two-bed general surgery recovery room was constructed at the Centre for Global eHealth Innovation. Ten users received a hands-on 10-15 minute in-service training, before caring for two (dummy) patients both hooked up to the trial PCA’s. During the scenario, a “staff nurse”, who was also helping to care for the patients, assigned PCA related tasks to the user.
  • Heuristic analysis: The team evaluated each of the three products by comparing the design against a set of standard usability design principles adapted for the evaluation of medical devices.

Based on these evaluations, the team provided recommended changes to the three pump vendors.


One outstanding product could not be identified from the comparison evaluation. Instead, the team provided each pump vendor with recommendations for improvement. If the most necessary design changes proposed by HHF were implemented, each pump would be able to function safely and efficiently in UHN hospitals.