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Aug. 1, 2022

4 Themes in Human Factors in Healthcare from HCS2022

4 Themes in Human Factors in Healthcare from HCS2022

International Symposium on Human Factors and Ergonomics in Health Care 

The International Symposium on Human Factors and Ergonomics in Health Care took place earlier this year in New Orleans and was accompanied by a virtual component in June. Human Factors Cast wanted to take a look into some of the explored themes at this year’s symposium. 

Here are some topics identified at the conference that Human Factors and Ergonomics can target: 

  • Situation awareness
  • Workload
  • Automation Bias and uncritical reliance
  • Explanation and trust, support user understanding of applications
  • Human-AI teaming
  • Training
  • Impact on relationships between staff and patients
  • Ethical issues ranging from bias to privacy

Let's take a deeper look… 

Adopting Human Factors and Ergonomics Frameworks to Improve Patient Safety

One significant theme explored during the symposium was that of adopting human factors frameworks to improve overall patient safety. Traditional Root Cause Analysis (RCA) is currently a guiding framework used to analyze patient safety incidents. RCA only focuses on the individual, failing to consider the role of the broader system the individual operates within. This framework excludes situation awareness from the narrative and searches for one root cause, opposed to the myriad interactions that led to an unfavorable outcome. Presenters noted that adopting a human factors framework, like Systems Engineering Initiative for Patient Safety (SEIPS), which uniquely considers all contributing factors in a situation (e.g. equipment, person(s), tasks, environment, and organization) creates space for big picture examination, which can lead to meaningful systemic changes. 

Improving outcomes for everyone

Human factors frameworks allow for incident reports to explore systems-related safety problems, which can then facilitate the creation of stronger support networks within the system. Considering how health systems do not have an equal impact on all patients, there is a significant possibility that human factors can alleviate risks for marginalized populations. Adopting frameworks that allow for systemic examination make it possible to apply an equity lens to the hospital system, and ultimately support efforts that address risks that disproportionately impact people of color. This is one of many ways that bringing human factors frameworks to the forefront of processes in healthcare environments will improve patient outcomes and provider efficiency.

Human Factors and Ergonomics in Device Design and Instruction 

A handful of presentations were geared toward medical device design, testing, and implementation. Topics ranged from successful frameworks for integrating new technologies to user interface design choices. Human factors professionals can make valuable contributions at every stage of the product life cycle by collaborating with stakeholders on engineering, packaging, quality, operations, manufacturing, and post-validation changes. 

Human factors play an important role in supporting patients’ use of personal medical devices. In fact, we’ve even covered how User Centered Design can help marginalized communities in the healthcare field. In addition to mitigating use-related risks, human factors practitioners have the responsibility to effectively communicate instructions by making them comprehensive yet digestible.

Human Factors and Ergonomics for the Collaboration Between Humans and AI

During the conference, Mark Sujan, a researcher and project consultant for human factors in safety-critical industries at Human Factors Everywhere, addressed the importance of a “super tool” perspective in the utilization of AI. Instead of playing the role of a healthcare provider or becoming the main focus of providers, AI can assist in areas of difficulty to improve situations that would otherwise lead to poor results. Human factors should be considered throughout all stages of AI development to account for how human performance will be affected by the technology in order to assist with achieving positive outcomes for everyone involved. 

Human factors and ergonomics professionals have the opportunity to guide AI in healthcare in a manner that fosters trust in technology. This includes facilitating an open dialogue, addressing real concerns, and designing for user success. Starting conversations with developers, policy makers, and stakeholders supports the overall progress of AI funding and research by setting realistic expectations and integrating concerns into the development of technologies––preventing disappointment. If you’re interested in the topic of AI in Healthcare, stay tuned. We’ll have a deep dive out very soon about this very topic!

Human Factors and Ergonomics to Alleviate Workload

Human factors and ergonomics can contribute to alleviating workload in health care environments by improving the usability of medical technology. Human Factors practitioners can also target surgical ergonomics to improve the physical well-being of professionals in the operating room. The nature of surgery paired with the institutional expectation of perseverance among healthcare workers impedes upon ergonomic principles that protect against work-related musculoskeletal disorders. Environmental design was also mentioned as a potential area of improvement with surgical environments remaining  relatively stagnant compared to the immense growth of surgical technologies. Current operating room processes can lead to surgeons needing medical intervention and/or early retirement. 

Environmental controls and new designs for tools and technology have been proposed, but have not caught traction. Presenters highlighted that future directions may involve research regarding challenges to surgical ergonomics. 

Application of AI in surgery

The conference also proposed ways AI could work in tandem with medical professionals to improve patient outcomes and reduce workload. Two examples were the automated assessment of operating room performance and intraoperative assistance to provide real time guidance. Ideally, this would improve safety by preventing errors, and would elevate efficiency within the hospital system.

Closing Statements

Topics at the 2022 HFES Health Care Symposium explored how human factors and ergonomics can be utilized to improve health care processes and patient outcomes. The virtual component of the conference was an incredible opportunity to learn about the newest human factors and ergonomics initiatives and insights for those unable to attend the symposium in New Orleans. For more information about this year’s conference, visit the official HFES Health Care Symposium website.