Qual Saf Health Care 11:352-354 doi:10.1136/qhc.11.4.352

Human factors engineering and patient safety

  1. J Gosbee
  1. Correspondence to:
    J Gosbee, Director, Patient Safety Information Systems, National Center for Patient Safety, Department of Veterans Affairs, 24 Frank Lloyd Wright Drive, Lobby M, Ann Arbor, MI 48106, USA;


The case study and analyses presented here illustrate the crucial role of human factors engineering (HFE) in patient safety. HFE is a framework for efficient and constructive thinking which includes methods and tools to help healthcare teams perform patient safety analyses, such as root cause analyses. The literature on HFE over several decades contains theories and applied studies to help to solve difficult patient safety problems and design issues. A case study is presented which illustrates the vulnerabilities of human factors design in a transport monitor. The subsequent analysis highlights how to move beyond the more obvious contributing factors like training to design problems and the establishment of informal norms. General advice is offered to address these issues and design issues specific to this case are discussed.

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