MedStar Health Forms “National Center for Human Factors Engineering in Healthcare” to Advance Patient Safety

MedStar Health Applies Safety Sciences Utilized by the Military, Aviation, and Nuclear Industries to Support “Patient First” Philosophy

WASHINGTON —  MedStar Health has announced the formation of the “National Center for Human Factors Engineering in Healthcare,” a unique scientific research center that applies safety science methods to healthcare.

The mission of the Center is to improve patient safety in today’s complex world of medicine, identify and test ways to better protect patients from harm, and help create an ultra-safe care environment at MedStar Health and beyond. The Center is the largest human factors engineeringenterprise in the U.S. that is situated within a healthcare system. It is the product of a collaborative effort of the MedStar Institute for Innovation (MI2) and MedStar Health Research Institute.

The National Center for Human Factors Engineering in Healthcare utilizes the same safety science that has created dramatic improvements in safety in other domains — specifically in the military and in the aviation, transportation, and nuclear energy industries. The Center applies these methods to all aspects of healthcare: to medical devices and instruments, to systems and processes of care, and to the overall work environment.

“The science of safety is not new. The techniques that our Center applies began to emerge in the 1940s when the military and the aviation industry began to learn that a scientifically driven optimized design of the human-technology interface has a direct impact on error rates, efficiency, and safety. Healthcare as an industry has been fairly slow to apply this safety science to health systems,” says Rollin J. (Terry) Fairbanks, MD, MS, the Center’s Director. “Our Center has gathered expert human factors scientists to work within healthcare, and we will benefit from close collaboration with other parts of the MedStar Institute for Innovation, specifically the Simulation and Training Environment Lab (SiTEL), the Center for Infonovation (information technology), Building Sciences Center, and MedStar Inventor Services.”

The Center includes a core scientific staff of Human Factors Engineers who work side-by-side with MedStar Health’s care providers, clinical researchers, and leadership teams to improve the design of work processes, medical devices, and care environments with a goal of optimizing efficiency, maximizing safety, minimizing error, and preventing harm to patients when errors do occur. Fairbanks and his team have established a highly-qualified collaborative of faculty affiliates in different domains from within MedStar Health and from multiple organizations throughout the US and Europe, with human factors engineering programs throughout North America, and with government agencies responsible for healthcare.

“Applying human factors engineering and safety science to healthcare provides an unprecedented opportunity to make dramatic and sweeping changes to not only improve patient outcomes, but improve the efficiency of the healthcare system, create a better understanding of a patient’s medical condition, design more intuitive medical devices, create safer healthcare working conditions, and design more effective communication between care providers. We want to innovate a new generation of patient-centered care,” said Fairbanks.

“A core value of MedStar Health is putting ‘patients first,'” states William L. Thomas, MD, Executive Vice President, Medical Affairs and Chief Medical Officer, MedStar Health. “This is the lens through which we evaluate our medical, educational, and research investments. By applying the rigor of safety science to patient safety, we see the work of this Center as one of several key investments MedStar Health is making to advance health in our communities. MedStar Health is proud to be a national leader in this fertile area of study.”

MedStar Health is a $4 billion, not-for-profit, regional healthcare system based in Columbia, MD, that is also one of the largest employers in the region. MedStar Health is the largest health care provider in the Maryland and Washington, DC region with nine hospitals, the MedStar Health Research Institute and 20 other health-related companies. They have one of the largest graduate medical education programs in the country training over 1,100 medical residents annually. MedStar also has a major academic affiliation with Georgetown University.


Posted August 16, 2011

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