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What is Human Factors Engineering?

Human factors engineering (HFE) is the science of understanding the properties of human capabilities and limitations and applying that understanding to the design, development, and deployment of systems. It is a multidisciplinary field incorporating contributions from industrial engineering, cognitive psychology, industrial design, statistics, operations research and anthropometry. Human factors involves the study of all aspects of the way humans perform and they way in which they interact with the world around them, with the aim of improving operational performance and safety.

How Does HFE Apply to Healthcare?

HFE is applied to healthcare to design processes, devices, and systems that support the work of care givers. Specific benefits of HFE applied to healthcare include:

• Efficient care processes;
• Effective communication between care providers;
• Better understanding of a patient’s current medical condition;
• Reduced risk of device use error;
• Easier to use (or more intuitive) devices;
• Reduced need for training;
• Easier repair and maintenance;
• Cost savings through mitigation of adverse events;
• Safer healthcare working conditions; and
• Improved patient outcomes

HFE should take place early in the system development process. It should include tools such as work domain analysis, function allocation, probabilistic risk assessment, usability testing, among others.

White Paper on Integrative Medicine

Date:     June 10, 2016

From:    Mark Smith, MD
              Chief Innovation Officer, MedStar Health
              Director, MedStar Institute for Innovation (MI2)

Dear Colleagues:

I am pleased to send you the MedStar Institute for Innovation’s White Paper on Integrative Medicine.

In its role to catalyze innovation that advances health, the MedStar Institute for Innovation has been investigating the potential application of Integrative Medicine (IM) within MedStar. IM is the seamless union of standard Western medicine with established approaches from other healing traditions (e.g., acupuncture, yoga, meditation) to relieve suffering, reduce stress, and enhance well-being and resilience. This review of the evidence on IM and its current state of practice within the US is the first product of that work, and I am excited by the possibilities that it reveals for us.

I was surprised, and I think you may be also, at the range of conditions for which there is good evidence for the effectiveness of IM approaches. IM enables us to do more to address health, wellbeing, pain, the suffering sometimes associated with treatment, and a variety of specific medical conditions. I urge clinical colleagues to review this evidence just as they would a new drug or procedure to see if these approaches might be suitable additions to the treatment plans for their patients.

I was also surprised to learn that roughly one-third of Americans are already using various IM approaches and spending roughly $12 billion annually on provider-based services. Further, some health systems are offering these services to patients for free, based simply on the impact they have seen them have on patient satisfaction and hospital ratings. There is a huge opportunity for mutual benefit here. Unfortunately, we also learned that local competitors have begun moving into this market ahead of us.

While it was not the focus of this research, I am also personally struck by another, very serious, angle on this topic—clinician burnout. Recent reports indicate that this phenomenon has reached epidemic proportions, and I suspect that you can see it in the faces of our front-line, care-giving colleagues, just as I can. There is good evidence that IM practices can also play an important role in an overall program to support clinician self-care, wellbeing and resiliency. A case could be made to invest in the development of IM services for this reason alone.

I am proud to put this product of MI2’s efforts into your hands. As you might guess, I played only a minor role in its production. Full credits are documented in the Acknowledgements section, but I would be remiss not to single out the report’s main author, Emily Ratner MD, to say a warm “thank you” for her tremendous effort. A quick skim of the 24 pages (!) of references will give you a good feel for the effort, and rigor, behind this report.

The time has come for MedStar to give serious consideration to approaches from Integrative Medicine. We should not and cannot ignore the evidence. We now know that we can do more to relieve suffering, reduce stress, and enhance well-being—among our patients… and our colleagues.

As you’ll see, it doesn’t matter so much where we start, only that we start.





-Mark Smith, MD
Chief Innovation Officer, MedStar Health
Director, MedStar Institute for Innovation (MI2)

Download the pdf of the White Paper here 
Note: This document is for your internal use only as it has not yet been finalized according to MedStar brand and style guidelines

MedStar Institute for Innovation Intake Form

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National Center for Human Factors in Healthcare Team

Raj Ratwani, PhD
Acting Director and Scientific Director, National Center for Human Factors in Healthcare
[email protected]

Rollin (Terry) Fairbanks, MD, MS, FACEP 
Founding Director, National Center for Human Factors in Healthcare
Associate Director, MI2 
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A. Zach Hettinger MD, MS
Medical Director and Director of Cognitive Informatics, National Center for Human Factors in Healthcare
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Grace Tran, MS
Director, Human Factors Safety Integration
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Lawrence Wolpert, PhD
Director, Usability Services
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Paula Royster
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