Aaron Z. Hettinger

Aaron (Zach) Hettinger, MD, is the medical director and director of cognitive informatics of MedStar's National Center for Human Factors in Healthcare, the largest hospital-based human factors engineering program in the United States. In addition, he is an emergency medicine physician at MedStar Union Memorial Hospital and an assistant professor of Emergency Medicine at Georgetown University School of Medicine.

As part of the MedStar Institute of Innovation's Center for Human Factors, 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 possesses a unique medical/technical skill set and often finds himself in the role of translating between the languages of medicine and technology to help MedStar and his research sponsors identify innovative ways to improve efficiencies and enhance patient safety.

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 which 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 Journal of the American Medical Association, Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association, Annals of Emergency Medicine and Journal of Healthcare Risk Management.

His medical degree is 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

  • Emergency medicine
  • Human factors engineering
  • Human-computer interactions
  • Work flow management
  • Care delivery systems

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 on MI2’s website.

View Dr. Hettinger's publications on PubMed

  • Research Areas
  • Critical Care/Emergency Medicine
  • Health Services/Quality/Outcomes