A Systems Approach to Improving Patient Safety through Medical Device Purchasing

Year: 2009
Author: Hinrichs, Saba
Supervisor: Clarkson, P. John
Institution: Department of EngineeringUniversity of Cambridge
Page(s): 294


The purchase of medical devices involves engaging various stakeholders as well as balancing clinical, technical and financial requirements. Failure to consider these requirements can lead to wider consequences in the delivery of care. This study first builds a general knowledge base of current purchasing practice in a sample of NHS Trusts, which confirms the direction and guidance given by policy documents and literature as to the extent of the challenges faced by purchasing stakeholders. This then leads to an analysis to identify inefficiencies in the purchasing process, and how such practice can lead to risks in the delivery of care. These risks range from injury to individuals, impacts to the healthcare delivery service, and financial and litigation risks. Finally, a framework that highlights these potential risks in the life-cycle of medical devices in hospitals is presented. Key policy guidance has encouraged both researchers and implementers of healthcare services to approach patient safety from a systems perspective, acknowledging that medical device errors are not only directly related to device design, but to the design of the healthcare delivery service system in which the device operates. Little evidence exists of successfully applying systems approaches specifically to medical device purchasing practice. Medical device purchasing, because of its implications to patient safety on the one hand, and the uniqueness of the healthcare context, requires a unique approach. By demonstrating the influence of purchasing practice to service delivery and patient care, the thesis made is that taking a holistic systems approach is one method to improve device purchasing practice, and hence influence better care.

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