Applying human factors to advance healthcare
Through applied research, usability, safety advisement, and education, the MedStar Health National Center for Human Factors is dedicated to the scientific study of how humans think, work, and interact within the healthcare environment.
Located in Washington, D.C., the Center was founded in 2010 within the MedStar Institute for Innovation and moved to its new organizational home in the MedStar Health Research Institute in 2020.
Ongoing Research Studies
Annual Research Publications
The MedStar Health Center for Human Factors in Healthcare is the largest human factors program embedded within a healthcare system in the U.S.
Our research has been referenced in federal and state health policy and has been published in more than 100 leading peer-reviewed journal publications including JAMA, JAMA Pediatrics, Health Affairs, Nature, etc.
We work with more than 100 organizations across the country and the world. Our team is proud to have been awarded seven R01 grants.
Working in close collaboration with these teams and the MedStar Institute for Quality and Safety, we are proud that our work directly impacts MedStar Health’s approach to patient care and our goal of Zero Harm.
What is human factors in healthcare?
Engaging experts across many areas of expertise, human factors in healthcare lives at the intersection of psychology and engineering. Human factors concepts and ideas have been adopted across many high-risk fields, including automotive, aviation, defense, and health care.
Focused on understanding the interaction of people and other elements in the healthcare environment, human factors engineering applies psychological and physiological principles to the design of products, processes, and systems. This pragmatic and scientific approach aims to improve patient safety and satisfaction, reduce clinician burnout, boost process efficiency, and improve quality and reliability—while reducing costs.
Our work extends far beyond one single health system. With a focus on increasing knowledge generation and transfer, seeking innovative strategies, and providing valuable insights to inform change, we take a systems-based approach across four areas of expertise:
We provide the following core services to improve healthcare safety, efficiency, and quality.
Our applied research generates and disseminates new knowledge about how critical healthcare challenges, such as sepsis, for instance, are identified, tracked, and addressed in order to better support clinicians and enhance patient safety.
Current research topics:
- Diagnostic Error
- Digital Health Usability and Safety
- Artificial Intelligence and System Design
- Safe Medication Practices
- Cognitive Engineering
With usability expertise in human capabilities and limitations, our associates contribute to user-centered product and process development where it matters most, such as in pediatric dosing charts.
By promoting a proactive, systems approach to safety, and rejecting a “blame and shame culture” surrounding errors, we drive positive outcomes for a range of external and internal clients.
Education and outreach
Our team provides dedicated training and mentoring to the next generation of human factors specialists, domestically and globally.
Our patient-first philosophy
As part of the MedStar Health system, the Center’s unique, patient-first philosophy provides:
- Access: Direct access to 10 hospitals and more than 300 diversified healthcare organizations in MedStar Health's clinical environments, as well as frontline clinicians and patients in a wide array of clinical settings.
- Expertise: Multi-disciplinary expertise including human factors engineers, clinicians, computer scientists, informatics experts, and environmental designs, as well as faculty partners that prioritize user needs.
- Scientific Rigor: Nationally-recognized academic excellence that is operationally focused—MedStar Health is a leading medical institution and home to one of the largest graduate medical education programs, ground-breaking new technology, and a unique environment to spur innovation.
We have more than a dozen human factors scientists, biostatisticians and data science experts on our team, and are proud to partner with quality and safety leaders.