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Improving Safety through Human Factors Engineering.

Human factors engineering (HFE) focuses on the design and analysis of interactive systems that involve people, technical equipment, and work environment. HFE is informed by knowledge of human characteristics. It complements existing patient safety efforts by specifically taking into consideration that, as humans, frontline staff will inevitably make mistakes. Therefore, the systems with which they interact should be designed for the anticipation and mitigation of human errors. The goal of HFE is to optimize the interaction of humans with their work environment and technical equipment to maximize safety and efficiency. Special safeguards include usability testing, standardization of processes, and use of checklists and forcing functions. However, the effectiveness of the safety program and resiliency of the organization depend on timely reporting of all safety events independent of patient harm, including perceived potential risks, bad outcomes that occur even when proper protocols have been followed, and episodes of "improvisation" when formal guidelines are found not to exist. Therefore, an institution must adopt a robust culture of safety, where the focus is shifted from blaming individuals for errors to preventing future errors, and where barriers to speaking up-including barriers introduced by steep authority gradients-are minimized. This requires creation of formal guidelines to address safety concerns, establishment of unified teams with open communication and shared responsibility for patient safety, and education of managers and senior physicians to perceive the reporting of safety concerns as a benefit rather than a threat.

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