Usability study of pH strips for nasogastric tube placement

Simone Borsci, Peter Buckle, Jeremy Huddy, Zenia Alaestante, Zhifang Ni, George B. Hanna

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

14 Citations (Scopus)
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Aims: (1) To model the process of use and usability of pH strips (2) to identify, through simulation studies, the likelihood of misreading pH strips, and to assess professional’s acceptance, trust and perceived usability of pH strips.

Methods: This study was undertaken in four phases and used a mixed method approach (an audit, a semi-structured interview, a survey and simulation study). The three months audit was of 24 patients, the semi-structured interview was performed with 19 health professionals and informed the process of use of pH strips. A survey of 134 professionals and novices explored the likelihood of misinterpreting pH strips. Standardised questionnaires were used to assess professionals perceived usability, trust and acceptance of pH strip use in a simulated study.

Results: The audit found that in 45.7% of the cases aspiration could not be achieved, and that 54% of the NG-tube insertions required x-ray confirmation. None of those interviewed had received formal training on pH strips use. In the simulated study, participants made up to 11.15% errors in reading the strips with important implications for decision making regarding NG tube placement. No difference was identified between professionals and novices in their likelihood of misinterpreting the pH value of the strips. Whilst the overall experience of usage is poor (47.3%), health professionals gave a positive level of trust in both the interview (62.6%) and the survey (68.7%) and acceptance (interview group 65.1%, survey group 74.7%). They also reported anxiety in the use of strips (interview group 29.7%, survey group 49.7%).

Conclusions: Significant errors occur when using pH strips in a simulated study. Manufacturers should consider developing new pH strips, specifically designed for bedside use, that are more usable and less likely to be misread.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0189013
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2017
Externally publishedYes


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