Human Factors research highlights ways to improve patient safety

ons in a simulated patient, they could more precisely and safely monitor anesthesia.

Other articles focus on changes in behavior or the environment that could result in increased patient safety:

  • The work environment can affect nurses' ability to maintain priorities and stay organized. Wolf et al. used task and link analysis to demonstrate that on average, the group of nurses studied "had 10 or more activities waiting to be performed and experienced 3.4 interruptions per hour." These findings may lead to methods and techniques to reduce stress among nurses.
  • Bar Code Medication Administration (BMCA) systems are intended to prevent giving the wrong medication to hospital patients if used correctly. While observing nurses in Veterans Health Administration sites, Patterson and colleagues discovered that they adopt a variety of workaround strategies that could result in errors and risk to patients. The researchers suggest ways to minimize workarounds.
  • It can be difficult to diagnose the severity of the condition of a person exhibiting signs of acute cardiac ischemia, even for seasoned physicians. Computer-based decision support tools that help doctors predict serious events are not widely used for reasons that are not well understood. Lai et al. developed a Web-based tutorial that physicians said increased their level of understanding of one such tool.

The special section also includes these important studies:

  • Using a qualitative user-center design approach, Escoto et al. found that physicians and clinical assistants differ on some of the issues that medical error reporting systems might capture. Implementing such reporting systems might lead to better patient care if these systems are designed with the users' professional cultures and other factors in mind.
  • Training health care workers to draw blood for testing has traditionally been done on a low-tech, simulated arm, w

Contact: Lois Smith
Human Factors and Ergonomics Society

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