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November 5, 2018

Expert analysis: Carayon calls for expanded engineering role in patient safety

Written By: Tom Ziemer

Human factors and systems engineering hold unrealized potential to improve patient safety across the United States healthcare landscape. That’s the view of University of Wisconsin-Madison Professor Pascale Carayon and a team of collaborators.

Carayon, the Procter & Gamble Bascom Professor in Total Quality in the Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering, is the first author of a paper in the November issue of Health Affairs, a thematic issue about patient safety.

Through her work examining the use of human factors and systems engineering approaches in healthcare settings—with a particular focus on patient safety—Carayon has established herself as a leading voice in the field. She directs the Wisconsin Institute for Healthcare Systems Engineering at UW-Madison and is the smart and connected healthcare lead in the university’s Grainger Institute for Engineering.

“We’re pleased that Pascale Carayon and her colleagues could contribute to our November issue and briefing,” says Alan Weil, Health Affairs’ editor-in chief. “Their study explains how the discipline of human factors and systems engineering is increasingly being applied to improve patient safety, and they make a number of important recommendations for bridging the divide between these engineering disciplines and healthcare.”

In their paper, Carayon, UW-Madison PhD students Bat-Zion Hose and Megan Salwei, and Professors Abigail Wooldridge of the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and James Benneyan of Northeastern University deliver recommendations for expanding the role of human factors and systems engineering across the healthcare sector to better address patient safety problems.

Among the group’s set of proposals:

• Creating educational programs for clinicians around human factors and systems engineering tools and methods,

• Training more engineers in healthcare applications and increasing hiring of them within healthcare organizations,

• Establishing closer relationships between academic programs in engineering and the health sciences,

• Improving data infrastructures in health systems,

• Expanding the use of human-centered design among medical technology companies,

• Assisting rural and healthcare organizations in accessing human factors and systems engineering methods and tools,

• Creating a coordinated, national initiative to facilitate widespread adoption of human factors and systems engineering throughout the healthcare field.

Carayon is also among the authors from the thematic issue who will be presenting during a briefing on Nov. 6, 2018, in Washington, D.C. Watch a live webcast of the briefing on Health Affairs’ website.

The project used funding from the Clinical and Translational Science Awards Program of the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (part of the National Institutes of Health), as well as a Patient Safety Learning Lab award from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.