The Need for Human Factors in Health Technology Management

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HumanEra @ UHN & IFMBE Clinical Engineering Division
All people, no matter how careful, have the potential to make mistakes. Healthcare professionals enter the field out of a desire to help others, but because all humans have certain known strengths and limitations, people can often find themselves in situations where the systems in which they work lead them to make mistakes. In 1999, the Institute of Medicine’s publication To Err is Human [1] revealed that approximately 44,000 to 98,000 preventable deaths take place each year in the United States, making it the 8th leading cause of death. A similar study in Canada showed even worse outcomes on a per capita basis, with between 9,000 and 24,000 preventable deaths occurring each year [2]. Other studies in the United Kingdom [3], New Zealand [4], and Australia [5] found that 8.7%, 12.9% and 16.6% of hospital admissions, respectively, were associated with an adverse event. In 2013, fourteen years after To Err is Human was published, an updated review of the literature provided higher estimates still, with between 210,000 and 400,000 preventable adverse events occurring in the United States annually[6]. Errors leading to adverse events and preventable patient deaths remain a serious, global issue.