GE Engstrom Ventilator "Basic UI" Project

BEFORE: Original Engstrom Ventilator User Interface (click to enlarge)

Back in the mid-2000s, there was a growing concern that the "Avian Flu" was going to become a pandemic. GE launched an initiative to have a series of products ready for such an occurrence. The Engstrom Ventilator was key to the initiative since respiratory failure was one of the flu symptoms. But what if those that are trained in running the ventilator are overwhelmed during a mass casualty event? And how could we handle isolated patients?  

The project goals were to simplify the Engstrom User Interface so it would be more intuitive for a clinician running the ventilator to quickly assess the patient's condition. Could someone get acquainted with the ventilator in 5 minutes without sacrificing the high-end functionality provided? We also wanted the vitals to be easier to see from farther away, in case a patient was quarantined.

AFTER: Screen shot from final "Basic UI" (click to enlarge)

Since the primary users were not Respiratory Therapists - a big User Research project was launched at conferences in both Europe (ESICEM) and the US (AARC). The research helped determine which data was most vital. I mocked up new displays which led to a testable prototype: 

You can see that six of the data points were left on the screen. The Airway Pressure bar was a dynamic graphic that digitally represented a bellows. This "Basic UI" simplified the screen, allowed users to see the values from a distance, and maintained the necessary controls (seen along the bottom). 

The prototype was usability tested with different non-ICU nurses and EMTs. The results showed the project goals were met, and the "Basic UI" was launched in December 2007 at AARC. 

To this day, this has been one of my favorite projects. Not only does it show easy to identify changes to the user interface, but I facilitated a series of User Research activities to make sure the design hit the mark. From a UX perspective, we did our homework. The Avian Flu never did become a widespread issue, but according to my former colleagues the "Basic UI" is commonly used by customers to train new clinicians.