The past decade has seen an increase in the application of human factors and ergonomics (HFE) techniques to healthcare delivery in a broad range of contexts (domains, locations and environments). This paper provides a state of science commentary using four examples of HFE in healthcare to review and discuss analytical and implementation challenges and to identify future issues for HFE. The examples include two domain areas (occupational ergonomics and surgical safety) to illustrate a traditional application of HFE and the area that has probably received the most research attention. The other two examples show how systems and design have been addressed in healthcare with theoretical approaches for organisational and socio-technical systems and design for patient safety. Future opportunities are identified to develop and embed HFE systems thinking in healthcare including new theoretical models and long-term collaborative partnerships. HFE can contribute to systems and design initiatives for both patients and clinicians to improve everyday performance and safety, and help to reduce and control spiralling healthcare costs.
Practitioner summary: There has been an increase in the application of HFE techniques to healthcare delivery in the past 10 years. This paper provides a state of science commentary using four illustrative examples (occupational ergonomics, design for patient safety, surgical safety and organisational and socio-technical systems) to review and discuss analytical and implementation challenges and identify future issues for HFE.