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Human factors engineering or ergonomics (HFE) is a scientific discipline broadly focused on interactions among humans and other elements of a system.
Dr. Pascale Carayon, PhD, is a professor emerita in the Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering and the founding director of the Wisconsin Institute for Healthcare Systems Engineering (WIHSE). Dr. Nicole Werner, PhD, is an associate professor in the Department of Health and Wellness Design at the Indiana University School of Public Health-Bloomington. We spoke with both of them about the role of human factors engineering has in improving healthcare delivery and its role in patient safety.
Appropriate follow-up of incidental abnormal radiological findings is an ongoing patient safety challenge. Inadequate follow-up can contribute to missed or delayed diagnosis, potentially resulting in poorer patient outcomes. This study describes implementation of an electronic health record-based referral system for patients with incidental radiologic finding in the emergency room.
A 61-year-old women with a mechanical aortic valve on chronic warfarin therapy was referred to the emergency department (ED) for urgent computed tomography (CT) imaging of the right leg to rule out an arterial clot. CT imaging revealed two arterial thromboses the right lower extremity and an echocardiogram revealed a thrombus near the prosthetic heart valve. The attending physician ordered discontinuation of warfarin and initiation of a heparin drip.
A 47-year-old man underwent a navigational bronchoscopy with transbronchial biospy under general anesthesia without complications. The patient was transferred to the post-acute care unit (PACU) for observation and a routine post-procedure chest x-ray (CXR). After the CXR was taken, the attending physician spoke to the patient and discussed his impressions, although he had not yet seen the CXR. He left the PACU without communicating with the bedside nurse, who was caring for other patients. The patient informed the nurse that the attending physician had no concerns.
Washington, DC: VA Office of the Inspector General; September 15, 2022. Report no. 22-00815-232.
Donovan-Smith O. Spokesman-Review. September 11, 2022.
A 2-year-old girl presented to her pediatrician with a cough, runny nose, low grade fever and fatigue; a nasal swab for SARS-CoV-2 and influenza was negative and lung sounds were clear. The patient developed a fever and labored breathing and was taken to the Emergency Department (ED) before being admitted to the hospital. She developed respiratory distress and clinically worsened over time until she developed respiratory failure requiring air transportation to the pediatric intensive care unit at a children’s hospital.
A 71-year-old man presented to a hospital-based orthopedic surgery clinic for a follow-up evaluation of his knee and complaints of pain and swelling in his right shoulder. His shoulder joint was found to be acutely inflamed and purulent fluid was aspirated from his shoulder. The patient was sent to the Emergency Department (ED) for suspected septic arthritis.
A 49-year-old woman was referred by per primary care physician (PCP) to a gastroenterologist for recurrent bouts of abdominal pain, occasional vomiting, and diarrhea. Colonoscopy, esophagogastroduodenoscopy, and x-rays were interpreted as normal, and the patient was reassured that her symptoms should abate. The patient was seen by her PCP and visited the Emergency Department (ED) several times over the next six months. At each ED visit, the patient’s labs were normal and no imaging was performed.