Human Factors in Healthcare
Despite modern equipment, excellent training and continuing research healthcare organisations in all regions of the developed world continue to suffer from high levels of patient safety failures. It is estimated that out of all hospital admissions around 10% suffer unintentional harm and in the USA alone more than 100,000 people may die each year as a result of medical errors.
Providing safe health care depends on highly trained individuals with disparate roles and responsibilities acting together in the best interests of the patient. Communication barriers across hierarchies, failure to acknowledge human fallibility, and failures of situational awareness combine to cause poor teamwork, which can lead to adverse events.
Human Factors training in healthcare enhances clinical performance through an understanding of the effects of teamwork, tasks, equipment, workspace, culture and organisation on human behaviour in clinical settings. The training develops a cohesive environment among team members, and assists in building a culture in which all personnel feel empowered to speak up if they suspect a problem.
Team members are trained to cross-check each other's actions, offer assistance when needed, and address errors in a non-judgmental fashion. Human Factors training also emphasizes the role of fatigue, perceptual errors (such as misreading monitors or mishearing instructions) and the impact of management styles and organisational cultures.
The training equips participants with a set of non-technical skills that complement technical competency and include teamwork, situation awareness, decision making, communication and workload management.
Healthcare staff need to recognise that human error is inevitable and that cooperative and collaborative teams are the greatest asset to achieving safety and high reliability in complex and hazardous work environments. Human Factors provides participants with an understanding of the human causes of error and thereby develops the ability to take a proactive approach to the avoidance, trapping and mitigating of errors.
Human Factors training can assist healthcare staff to:
- Understand why we make errors
- Understand how ‘systems factors’ can threaten patient safety
- Improve the safety culture of teams and organisations
- Enhance teamwork and improve communication
- Improve the design of healthcare systems
- Identify ‘what went wrong’ and predict ‘what could go wrong’
- Appreciate how human factors tools can be used to reduce the likelihood of patient harm.