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Towards a safer healthcare system
  1. Kerm Henriksen1,
  2. Sara Albolino2
  1. 1Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, US Department of Health and Human Services, Rockville, Maryland, USA
  2. 2Clinical Risk Management and Patient Safety Centre, Tuscany Region, Florence, Italy
  1. Correspondence to Dr K Henriksen, Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, 540 Gaither Road, Rockville, MD 20850, USA; kerm.henriksen{at}

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While the terms ergonomics and human factors have distinctive origins (in Europe, ergonomics referred to the laws of work or how work conditions affect people such as leading to physiological stress or musculoskeletal injury; in the USA, human factors originally focused on the user–system interface or how people interact with equipment, workplaces and their environment), today the two terms are used interchangeably. A basic premise shared by the authors of the present supplement is that the creation of safer healthcare involves taking into account human strengths and limitations as we design and interact with open dynamic systems that comprise patients and providers, processes of care, tools and technology, the physical environment, the organisational environment and a host of external influences. The supplement actually has its origins in an international conference, Healthcare Systems Ergonomics and Patient Safety (HEPS), held in Florence in 2005.1 The idea of bridging the worlds of the varied healthcare professions and the ergonomics and human factors community in the form of a conference arose from the Italian Ergonomic Society and was spearheaded by S Bagnara and R Tartaglia.

A second international HEPS conference was organised collaboratively by Italian, French and German ergonomic societies. Held in Strasbourg in 2008, it highlighted the role and experiences of patients and providers. Representatives from over 20 countries participated. The conference gained the endorsement of the International Ergonomics Association and is now recognised by those with a serious interest in patient safety and …

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  • Competing interests None.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

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