Time to Accelerate Integration of Human Factors and Ergonomics in Patient Safety

BMJ Qual Saf. 2012 Apr;21(4):347-51. doi: 10.1136/bmjqs-2011-000421. Epub 2011 Nov 30.

Abstract

Progress toward improving patient safety has been slow despite engagement of the health care community in improvement efforts. A potential reason for this sluggish pace is the inadequate integration of human factors and ergonomics principles and methods in these efforts. Patient safety problems are complex and rarely caused by one factor or component of a work system. Thus, health care would benefit from human factors and ergonomics evaluations to systematically identify the problems, prioritize the right ones, and develop effective and practical solutions. This paper gives an overview of the discipline of human factors and ergonomics and describes its role in improving patient safety. We provide examples of how human factors and ergonomics principles and methods have improved both care processes and patient outcomes. We provide five major recommendations to better integrate human factors and ergonomics in patient safety improvement efforts: build capacity among health care workers to understand human factors and ergonomics, create market forces that demand the integration of human factors and ergonomics design principles into medical technologies, increase the number of human factors and ergonomic practitioners in health care organizations, expand investments in improvement efforts informed by human factors and ergonomics, and support interdisciplinary research to improve patient safety. In conclusion, human factors and ergonomics must play a more prominent role in health care if we want to increase the pace in improving patient safety.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Ergonomics*
  • Humans
  • Patient Safety*