Aaron Hettinger
Aaron Zach Hettinger

Aaron Zachary Hettinger, MD

Director of Cognitive Informatics, National Center for Human Factors in Healthcare

Aaron (Zach) Hettinger, MD, is the inaugural chief research information officer (CRIO) for the MedStar Health Research Institute. In this capacity, he serves as director for the Center of Biostatistics, Informatics and Data Science (CBIDS) and director of Cognitive Informatics, both under MedStar's National Center for Human Factors in Healthcare. This is the largest hospital-based human factors engineering program in the United States. In addition, Dr. Hettinger is an emergency medicine physician at MedStar Union Memorial Hospital and an assistant professor of Emergency Medicine at Georgetown University School of Medicine.

As CRIO, Dr. Hettinger works as a translator between the clinical, research, and informatics teams to efficiently and accurately obtain and analyze data from the electronic health record and other health information technology systems. Furthermore, he seeks to leverage innovative methods like data science and human factors engineering to work with clinical team to design and study algorithms and clinical support tools that can improve clinical care. 

In his role as director of the Center for Biostatistics, Informatics and Data Science (CBIDS), Dr. Hettinger oversees a multidisciplinary team of biostatisticians, informaticists, data scientists, and application developers. The CBIDS team provides core services to both internal MedStar Health investigators, as well as external collaborators with funding from diverse federal agencies and industry partners.

As part of the MedStar Center for Human Factors in Healthcare, Dr. Hettinger has experience serving as a project manager and principal investigator, conducting literature reviews, interviewing stakeholders, conducting human factors event analyses, designing and testing tools, and analyzing data. Through collaboration with multiple partners, he participates in multiple healthcare projects, including those involving the study of electronic health records usability, data visualization, adverse event detection, and patient safety. He has received funding from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC), Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). 

Dr. Hettinger is dual board-certified in emergency medicine and clinical informatics and is experienced in applying principles of human factors engineering to the healthcare setting. As an emergency medicine physician at MedStar Health, Dr. Hettinger provides medical services in a number of MedStar's hospital-based emergency departments. Because of his rotating schedule, he is familiar with the wide range of patient populations who use emergency departments, and he has a working knowledge of many health information technology and workflow systems and structures used to deliver care. Dr. Hettinger has been published in the proceedings of professional societies and in journals, including the Journal of the American Medical Association, Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association, Annals of Emergency Medicine, and Journal of Healthcare Risk Management.

He received his medical degree from the University of Rochester. In addition, Dr. Hettinger completed a research fellowship at the University of Rochester's Division of Prehospital Medicine, and he holds a master's degree in Clinical Investigation.

Research Interests

Dr. Hettinger's research interests include

  • Clinical Informatics & Data Science
  • Human Factors Engineering
  • Patient Safety
  • Health Information Technology Surveillance
  • Emergency Medicine

Selected Research

Cognitive Engineering for Complex Decision-Making and Problem-Solving in Acute Care

Cognitive systems engineering methods can be used to design Emergency Department information systems. The goal is to provide a fundamental and comprehensive picture of the difficult sensemaking, decision-making, and planning/re-planning tasks in the Emergency Department, along with the individual and team expertise required to meet those challenges. Read more about this research.

View Dr. Hettinger's publications on PubMed

Research Areas

  • Biostatistics/Bioinformatics
    Critical Care/Emergency Medicine
    Data Science
    Health Services/Quality/Outcomes
    Human Factors in Healthcare