Human Factors Engineering Seeks to Optimize Systems for Users, Says Speaker

May 6, 2016 | Aging Services Risk Management


​In healthcare, the beliefs that errors are personal failings and that policies create safety are common misperceptions, said A. Joy Rivera, PhD, human factors systems engineer, Children's Hospital of Wisconsin, at the April 29, 2016, spring conference of the Wisconsin Society for Healthcare Risk Management. But in the science and practice of human factors, "it's all about understanding human performance in context," she said. "The way that systems are designed actually impacts our behavior." In fact, the Institute of Medicine's seminal report, To Err Is Human: Building a Safer Health System, called for the application of "safety methods and technologies from other industries to health care, especially human factors and engineering principles." Human factors engineering is both a science and a practice, Rivera emphasized. It seeks to identify performance (what people are actually doing), analyze the interaction between work systems and human performance, and design work systems to support performance. "We analyze tasks and interactions in the system to determine why people are doing it the way they're doing it and then redesign the system," said Rivera.

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