Researchers from Engineering and Architecture Schools awarded by the American Society of Ergonomics

The American Society of Ergonomics and Human Factors (HFES) awarded a team from the Engineering and Architecture Schools of the University of Minho for the best article of 2019 in the journal Ergonomics in Design, with a system that identifies surgical instruments left in patients. This is the first time that the award created three decades ago distinguishes Portuguese and will be awarded at the HFES Annual Congress, which runs from 5 to 9 October from Chicago, USA. The jury of the award gathered 50 figures from top universities and institutions such as Google, NASA and General Motors.

Every year surgical material is left in the body of patients due to negligence and stress on the operating table. The UMinho team – Álvaro Sampaio, António Pontes, Paulo Simões and Pedro Arezes – proposes an RFID system (radio frequency identifier) incorporated in the surgical instruments, so that they are immediately detected and not forgotten in the patient’s body. In particular, the study analysed and mapped contact areas between the hands of surgeons and seven surgical scissors. The idea was to ensure, through the professionals’ own evaluation, that the RFID position does not disturb the handling of the instruments.

“We believe that this is an important contribution to reducing this type of occurrence and thus manifestly increasing patient safety,” says Álvaro Sampaio. The multidisciplinary work has innovated in the standards of the hand-to-hand contact areas, i.e. the way the user manually interacts with an artifact. “This methodology can be applied in the design and development of other products, especially for similar interactions, as there are few standard techniques to characterize and evaluate areas of contact between the hand and the products”, notes the researcher.

O artigo premiado intitula-se “Hand-product contact point detection on surgical instruments: a user evaluation”. A HFES é uma das sociedades mais influentes do mundo em ergonomia. Nasceu em 1955 em Los Angeles, tem 65 filiais na América do Norte e Europa e reúne mais de 4000 profissionais.

Álvaro Sampaio holds a PhD in Polymer Engineering, he is professor at the School of Architecture at UMinho, a researcher at the Landscape, Heritage and Territory Laboratory and operational director of Done Lab. António Pontes is PhD in Polymer Design and Processing, professor of the School of Engineering of UMinho (EEUM), researcher of the Institute of Polymers and Composites, coordinator of R&D projects in the Bosch/UMinho partnership and vice-president of PIEP – Polymer Engineering Innovation Pole. Paulo Simões is a PhD student in Industrial and Systems Engineering, researcher at Centro Algoritmi and industrial designer at Beckman Coulter (Switzerland). Pedro Arezes is PhD in Production and Systems Engineering, full professor and president of EEUM, coordinator of the Algoritmi Ergonomics and Human Factors group and director of the MIT Portugal Program.

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