Article Text

Download PDFPDF
On the complexity of medical devices and systems
  1. J W Senders
  1. Correspondence to:
 Dr J Senders
 295 Indian Road, Toronto, Ontario M6R 2X5, Canada; jwsenders{at}


How does one design something that is complex? Or something that is simple? Why should one try to reduce or increase complexity? What is complexity? There are a large number of different uses of the word, including many in mathematics and physics. Most of these are not useful in attempting to fit the word to the problems of the design of systems and devices for medicine. In this paper the concept has been defined to apply to health care, which has led to some conclusions about the future development of medical systems and devices.

  • complexity
  • design
  • patient safety

Statistics from

Request Permissions

If you wish to reuse any or all of this article please use the link below which will take you to the Copyright Clearance Center’s RightsLink service. You will be able to get a quick price and instant permission to reuse the content in many different ways.


  • Competing interests: none declared.

  • Based on an oral presentation by the author to the 2nd US/UK Patient Safety Research Methodology Workshop—Safety by Design.