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The design of neonatal incubators: a systems-oriented, human-centered approach



This report describes a multidisciplinary design project conducted in an academic setting reflecting a systems-oriented, human-centered philosophy in the design of neonatal incubator technologies.

Study Design:

Graduate students in Architectural Design and Human Factors Engineering courses collaborated in a design effort that focused on supporting the needs of three user groups of incubator technologies: infant patients, family members and medical personnel. Design teams followed established human-centered design methods that included interacting with representatives from the user groups, analyzing sets of critical tasks and conducting usability studies with existing technologies.


An iterative design and evaluation process produced four conceptual designs of incubators and supporting equipment that better address specific needs of the user groups.


This report introduces the human-centered design approach, highlights some of the analysis findings and design solutions, and offers a set of design recommendations for future incubation technologies.

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We thank the students of the two classes for their outstanding efforts in this project. We also thank to Dr Robert White, Dr Debra Harris, Tamara Congdon and the NICU nursing staff at St Joseph’s Regional Health Center in Bryan, TX, for providing user group input, and GE Healthcare for providing the Giraffe Incubator equipment, which was used by the design teams in usability evaluation studies and also for general design reference. Finally, we thank the TAMU Industrial and Systems Engineering and Architecture departments for in-kind support. This publication has been sponsored by Lifespan Healthcare LLC, Philips Healthcare and Pediatrix Medical Group. The sponsoring entities for this publication had no involvement in the preparation or alteration of the manuscripts.

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Correspondence to T K Ferris.

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Parts of this article are adapted from material originally published in ‘A Multidisciplinary Human-Centered Approach to the Design of Incubation Systems’, in Proceedings of the 2012 Symposium on Human Factors and Ergonomics in Health Care: Bridging the Gap. Copyright 2012 by Human Factors and Ergonomics Society. All rights reserved.

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Ferris, T., Shepley, M. The design of neonatal incubators: a systems-oriented, human-centered approach. J Perinatol 33 (Suppl 1), S24–S31 (2013).

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