Human Factors and Ergonomics Society (HFES)

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HFES is the professional society for human factors/ergonomics professionals in the USA.  Its members are involved in academics, consultation, technology, high risk industries and healthcare among other disciplines.   Its publication includes: Human Factors, Journal of Cognitive Engineering and Decision Making, Ergonomics in design, Proceedings of the HFES Annual Meeting, Reviews of Human Factors and Ergonomics and Proceedings of the HFES Health-Care Symposium. 

What is

Human Factors?

The International Ergonomics Association (IEA) defines "human factors" as “the scientific discipline concerned with the understanding of interactions among humans and other elements of a system, and the profession that applies theory, principles, data and methods to design in order to optimize human well-being and overall system performance.”

Human Factors engineers evaluate and design the interactions of people, tasks, environment, technology, and organizations, to make sure the interactions are compatible with the needs, abilities and limitations.

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HFES 2020 Healthcare Symposium

One of HFES's largest technical groups is the healthcare group. This group was started in 1990 and in 2012, a separate conference, focusing just on healthcare was established.  To see information on the upcoming conference please visit the "Learn more" button to the right.

IEA is an international coalition of societies that was founded in Zurich, Switzerland.  Its mission is to “elaborate and advance ergonomics science and practice, and to expand its scope of application and contribution to society to improve the quality of life”.

International Ergonomics Association (IEA)

The Nielsen Norman Group (NN/g) is a UX research and consulting firm. They provide useful articles, research, trainings, and so much more world-wide.

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What is the difference between human factors and ergonomics? 

This is a very frequently asked question when discussing human factors. A good answer can be found from the Chartered Institute of Ergonomics and Human Factors based in the UK: “The terms ‘ergonomics’ and ‘human factors’ can be used interchangeably, although ‘ergonomics’ is often used in relation to the physical aspects of the environment, such as workstations and control panels, while ‘human factors’ is often used in relation to wider system in which people work.”

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Teamwork and TeamSTEPPS

Teamwork has been an important area of study for HFE professionals that is very applicable to the healthcare field.  TeamSTEPPS is a program of AHRQ that applies team work to improving performance and safety in healthcare.  

Saving Lives: Guidance from the Science of Teamwork

The TeamSTEPPS principles are built off a rich history within human factors research. One of the pre-eminent researchers in the area of teams is Dr. Eduardo Salas of Rice University. Take a look at one of Dr. Salas’ presentations from Rice University regarding the importance of teams, the psychology behind teamwork, and a series of useful tips that can be applied to your own teams. 

Ever wonder what “usability testing” entails?

Take a look at this humorous example of a usability test run on different types of fruit!

Watch this video that illustrates another core value of Human Factors and Ergonomics – designing for the user. This is often a principle that door manufacturers sometimes neglect.

The Design of "Bad Doors"

Safety within Healthcare -- Sidney Dekker

Safety is an important topic in Healthcare. Human Factors and Ergonomics professionals are most often also involved with safety, not just within healthcare but in many aspects of their work. One of the emerging ideas in safety is a rethinking how we approach safety in industry. Sidney Dekker, a professor at Griffith University in Australia, has written and spoken a lot about this new perspective this lecture gives a good summary. Take a moment to watch his video and learn more Safety Differently.

The science of human factors: separating fact from fiction

Within healthcare there has been some misconceptions that people hold about what human factors is and its purpose. Russ, Fairbanks, Karsh, Militello, Saleem and Wears have a wonderfully written article that addresses these perceptions and is a must read for healthcare professionals engaging in human factors for the first time.

Work system design for patient safety: the SEIPS model

SEIPS or Systems Engineering Initiative for Patient Safety is all about a system focus! Any cursory reading into Human Factors and Ergonomics will quickly establish the emphasis on systems. However, this is the first of two important articles explaining how best to apply a system view of safety within healthcare. This article is a little heavy reading but it does highlight a core value of human factors and ergonomics – systems.

SEIPS 3.0: Human-centered design of the patient journey for patient safety

The patient journey represents patient interactions with multiple health care contexts and is composed of many local work systems embedded in interconnected care settings.

Improving safety in the patient journey poses challenges for HFE, e.g. genuine participation of multiple stakeholders.

Useful Publications

Measurement of Situation Awareness in Dynamic Systems

This is one of the original articles addressing the measurement of situation awareness within the hospital setting.

Huddling for high reliability and situational awareness

Another concept that is gaining interest within healthcare is situation awareness. This article explores hospital administration and frontline staff perspectives on the advantages and difficulties of implementing a tiered situational awareness huddle system. Their proposed model is exploring the useful ways in which situational awareness huddles may reduce patient harm.

Improving Situation Awareness to Reduce Unrecognized Clinical Deterioration and Serious Safety Events

In this article, researchers designed a system to identify, mitigate, and escalate patient safety risk through the use of high-reliability organizational principles.

Toward a Theory of Situation Awareness in Dynamic Systems

This paper presents a theoretical model of situation awareness based on its role in human decision making. Situation awareness is presented as a predominant concern in system operation, based on a descriptive view of decision making. The relationship between situation awareness and numerous individual and environmental factors is explored within this article. Among these factors, attention and working memory are presented as critical factors limiting operators from acquiring and interpreting information from the environment to form situation awareness.

Is there a "Big Five" in teamwork?

This article argues that it is possible to breakdown what teams researchers have learned about teamwork into five core components. These components are now referred to as the “Big Five” core concepts within teamwork. The "Big Five" include 1) team leadership, 2) mutual performance monitoring, 3) backup behavior, 4) adaptability, and 5) team orientation.

From Safety-I to Safety-II: A White Paper

The science of Human Factors has historically been involved with safety. From Reason’s Swiss Cheese Model to newer perspectives on safety, human factors professionals apply these principles in multiple industries to improve systems. This paper discusses the evolving ideas of ‘safety,’ with comparisons between Safety-I and Safety-II.

Risk, Human Error, and System Resilience: Fundamental Ideas

This article is a comparison of the traditional error/risk assessment and the emerging ideas of resilience engineering.

On Teams, Teamwork, and Team Performance: Discoveries and Developments

This article highlights some of the key discoveries and developments in the area of team performance over the past 50 years, especially with relation to Human Factors.

What is human factors science and how can it improve EHRs?

In the last two decades, electronic health records (EHRs) have significantly impacted how the U.S. medical system provides health care and manages medical data. Many EHRs were not designed with a clear understanding of clinical workflow and health care environments. Human factors science studies the way humans interact with the world to continually improve that system.

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