What are clinical human factors?
Towards the bottom of this page you will find a fascinating comment stream of debate, discussions and suggestions around the thorny issue of trying to define clinical human factors. We’ve condensed them here into some shorter definitions:
Tim Cook, Consultant Anaesthetist, Royal United Hospital, Bath:
“Clinical human factors are all the non-technical factors that impact on patient care in medicine. Human factors have enormous breadth including human behaviour, interactions between professionals, design of equipment, systems and environment. The impact of human factors is enormous. Awareness of and attention to the negative aspects of clinical human factors improves patient care.”
Peter Buckle, President Elect of the Institute of Ergonomics and Human Factors (UK):
In August 2000, the International Ergonomics Association Council adopted an official definition of ergonomics or human factors):
“Ergonomics (or human factors) is 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.” (expanded upon at much greater length at the bottom of this page)
Ken Catchpole, Human Factors Practitioner & Senior Post-Doctoral Scientist, University of Oxford:
I like the idea of “enhancing clinical performance through an understanding of the effects of teamwork, tasks, equipment, workspace, culture, organisation on human behaviour and abilities, and application of that knowledge in clinical settings.”
Graham Plant, Consultant Interventional Radiologist (X-ray Surgery) at the Basingstoke & North Hampshire Hospital Foundation Trust:
I find that definitions are remembered better if they start with a snappy “summary”.
“The things that enhance or reduce human performance.”
“The things that enhance or reduce human performance, and differentiate us from logical, completely predictable machines.”
Chris Seal, Airline and Military Pilot and Human Factors Consultant:
I like Graham Plant’s suggestion or, even simpler, the partial quote from Alexander Pope: “To err is human.” As a result, every system, process, machine, tool or act that a human devises, uses or does is prone to error and failure. The study of and the learning from this simple truth is the basis of Human Factors.
Beverley Norris, Human Factors Lead, NPSA:
“Human Factors is using what we know about people to design safe, effective and efficient systems.”
Denis Wilkins, Retired Surgeon and member of CORESS:
I like Martin’s definition:
“Human factors are all the things that make us different from logical, completely predictable machines. In simple terms they are all those things that enhance or reduce human performance in the workplace.”