Human Factors in Health Care Systems

Trends in Ergonomics / Human Factors in health care. The role of an individual in patient care. Medical x-rays. Cardiovascular and Stroke.

A conference on Human Factors in Health Care will bring together health care providers, researchers, and employees from throughout the medical profession to share ideas and concerns. The main conference theme is “embodied science.” Embraced by science? Yes.

What are the human factors in health care?

An important theme of this year’s conference is “patient safety and operational efficiency.” The importance of “human factors engineering” and how it can contribute to patient safety and operational efficiency was also discussed. Some topics included:

Organizational change and culture change

How does a hospital change as a result of changes in culture and organizational design? Are changes in technology related to changes in culture? How do the human factors in health-care professionals interact with each other and what are the implications for quality improvement? These are just some examples of what the conference participants were considering.

Medical devices

Medical devices have changed a great deal over the years. This included everything from pacemakers to artificial limbs. There were a lot of talk about how human factors in health care professionals are affecting patient safety and the design of new medical devices.

“Biosensors and Electronic Health Records.”

It was the last session of the summer and a lot of people came out of it looking very weary. One speaker after another discussed how human factors in health care play a role in the design of electronic health records, but there were also quite a few concerns about how to adequately protect those records from being hacked. The concern was more about how easily such information can be hacked than about how it is done.

One idea that came up was the use of biosensors instead of electronic patient records. The idea was that a biosensor would be attached to the body such as a tattoo or a chip. If someone dropped or took something on their finger, the sensor would pick it up and electronically scan the area where the item had been dropped or taken.

If the result from the scan showed that something was abnormal, then an alarm would go off and alert the health care worker who would then be able to take measures to find out what was going on and report it to the doctor.

The idea is actually not that far-fetched

In fact, many pharmacies already use small sensors called barium enamel on their pens. Those pens act as kind of biosensors for the people filling them up. When they drop their pen, if the ink comes into contact with a biological agent (such as a needle) that was previously there, the pen recognizes that it is a foreign object and puts a red light on. If that agent is a biological health hazard, the alarm goes off and the pen, alone, alerts the pharmacist who then calls the local fire department for help.

This same technology could be used to detect biological hazards in medical settings. If you had a drop in ESR levels and your health-care worker detected that the level was way too low, you could put the appropriate alarm on the system and alert the medical personnel.

Once that person got on the way, the sensors could beep to indicate that there is a serious medical emergency and medical treatment should be sought. In the long run, the human factors in health care will determine how safe a place is for patients and doctors alike, and this technology will only continue to improve.