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PURPOSE OF REVIEW: Improvements in safety and quality benefit from a systems approach. Human factors is the study and practice of the relationship between humans and systems. This review examines recent advances in human factors in healthcare. RECENT FINDINGS: Early studies focused on understanding incidents, and on the translation of principles from aviation to healthcare, which demonstrated a useful but limited application of the human factors approach. More recent studies have begun to address the complexity of the relationship between human behaviour and technology, tasks, environment and organization. Human factors frameworks have been usefully applied that aid in these complex considerations, providing a better understanding of the healthcare system, and a much broader range of solutions to problems than checklists, protocols or training. In particular, in improving equipment design and procurement; improving job design by understanding the demands and tasks of individual healthcare practitioners; in improving what and when training is delivered; and the integration of these complex system components into a coherent whole. SUMMARY: The human factors approach is not yet mature in healthcare, but the importance is being increasingly recognized, and the breadth of application continually expanded.

Original publication




Journal article


Curr opin crit care

Publication Date





618 - 622


Critical Care, Health Services Administration, Humans, Information Systems, Inservice Training, Organizational Culture, Quality of Health Care, Safety Management