Aaron Z. Hettinger

aaron hettingerAaron (Zach) Hettinger, MD, is the medical director 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 and root cause analyses, designing and testing tools, and analyzing data. Through collaboration with the University of Maryland Human-Computer Interaction Laboratory, he participates in several healthcare projects, including those involving data visualization, medication reconciliation and outpatient result tracking. 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 board certified in emergency medicine 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 Annals of Emergency Medicine, Journal of Healthcare Risk Management, Prehospital Emergency Care and the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

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

Improved identification of emergency department patient visits

In this project, Dr. Hettinger is using advanced computer visualization software to describe patterns of emergency department visits. Current electronic health record (EHR) systems often use pre-designed reports that are created to look at limited time frames, presenting a challenge when the goal is to examine more than a few patients and/or records at a time. In this project, data on more than 80,000 ED patient visits were entered into visualization software developed by the Human-Computer Interaction Laboratory (HCIL), University of Maryland, College Park. The software, called Lifeflow, is capable of showing all 80,000 visits on one computer screen, from patients with single visits to the ED, to those who spend more time in than out of the hospital. This software has enabled the rapid identification of patients who share common ED visit patterns. For example, this software can identify patients who visit the ED three times within a week and are then admitted to the hospital, a query that would be challenging with a standard EHR system. This project continues the collaboration between the HCIL and the MedStar Institute for Innovation and includes deployment of advanced visualization software that previously has been used in sectors outside of healthcare.

Reducing missed laboratory results

Much research has been conducted on patient test results being missed by the ordering primary care physician. In this article, published in the American Medical Informatics Association (AMIA) Annual Symposium Proceedings (2011;2011:1382-1391), Dr. Hettinger and colleagues present a workflow management system to facilitate tracking laboratory tests from order through completion and follow up.

View Dr. Hettinger's publications on PubMed

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