Preventing healthcare-associated infections through human factors engineering

Curr Opin Infect Dis. 2018 Aug;31(4):353-358. doi: 10.1097/QCO.0000000000000463.


Purpose of review: Human factors engineering (HFE) approaches are increasingly being used in healthcare, but have been applied in relatively limited ways to infection prevention and control (IPC). Previous studies have focused on using selected HFE tools, but newer literature supports a system-based HFE approach to IPC.

Recent findings: Cross-contamination and the existence of workarounds suggest that healthcare workers need better support to reduce and simplify steps in delivering care. Simplifying workflow can lead to better understanding of why a process fails and allow for improvements to reduce errors and increase efficiency. Hand hygiene can be improved using visual cues and nudges based on room layout. Using personal protective equipment appropriately appears simple, but exists in a complex interaction with workload, behavior, emotion, and environmental variables including product placement. HFE can help prevent the pathogen transmission through improving environmental cleaning and appropriate use of medical devices.

Summary: Emerging evidence suggests that HFE can be applied in IPC to reduce healthcare-associated infections. HFE and IPC collaboration can help improve many of the basic best practices including use of hand hygiene and personal protective equipment by healthcare workers during patient care.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cross Infection / prevention & control*
  • Ergonomics* / methods
  • Health Personnel
  • Humans
  • Hygiene
  • Infection Control
  • Personal Protective Equipment