Autopilots in the Operating Room: Safe Use of Automated Medical Technology

Anesthesiology. 2020 Sep;133(3):653-665. doi: 10.1097/ALN.0000000000003385.


Automated medical technology is becoming an integral part of routine anesthetic practice. Automated technologies can improve patient safety, but may create new workflows with potentially surprising adverse consequences and cognitive errors that must be addressed before these technologies are adopted into clinical practice. Industries such as aviation and nuclear power have developed techniques to mitigate the unintended consequences of automation, including automation bias, skill loss, and system failures. In order to maximize the benefits of automated technology, clinicians should receive training in human-system interaction including topics such as vigilance, management of system failures, and maintaining manual skills. Medical device manufacturers now evaluate usability of equipment using the principles of human performance and should be encouraged to develop comprehensive training materials that describe possible system failures. Additional research in human-system interaction can improve the ways in which automated medical devices communicate with clinicians. These steps will ensure that medical practitioners can effectively use these new devices while being ready to assume manual control when necessary and prepare us for a future that includes automated health care.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anesthesiology / instrumentation*
  • Anesthesiology / methods*
  • Automation
  • Equipment and Supplies*
  • Humans
  • Medical Records*
  • Operating Rooms*
  • Patient Safety*