A Healthcare Minute: Managing Human Factors [Video]


Editor’s Note: The following article was recently published on ITN website and is reprinted here with permission.


Human performance determines how well machines work.  This goes for any industry in which people work closely with machines and particularly advanced technology. In health IT, a good working relationship between human and technology can translate into improved quality of care, increased efficiency and, ultimately, fewer errors.

But optimizing the relationship between people and their machines is seldom easy or simple. Relatively small processes, if not compatible with the way people work, can lead to big problems.  For example, entering data on a medication order form in the opposite order as would be written on a paper prescription can lead to errors if the physician defaults to old habits.  

Human activities and the way these are done directly relate to workflow and ultimately translate into efficiency, efficacy, and patient care management.  IT developers must understand how caregivers work and synchronize the design of their technologies to complement these processes.  

So much boils down to understanding and resolving workflow problems. Because small problems can become big ones — often in ways not anticipated – the vendor must communicate regularly and well with the customer’s various stakeholders.


Because people provide the care, the way they work has to dictate the way machines are designed.   Mismatches between IT and human processes can lead to what are often called “user errors.” These would be more accurately described as human-machine errors.  Many might be prevented with designs more in tune with the way people work.

Nowhere are such errors more likely to occur than when processes are automated, which — ironically — is a major focus of IT developers.  Reducing the number of user clicks holds the promise of accelerating the performance of a job and streamlining care management. But automation helps only if it achieves the same or a better end result than the one that might have taken longer and more effort.  

When automating processes, therefore, IT vendors must be vigilant that the automation not only accelerates performance but does so without compromising patient care.

IT developers must also look for ways that information technologies can complement human processes – ways that make them easier and more effective.  In the end, healthcare is all about people–those who give care and those who receive it. Maintaining a win-win proposition for all involved through the automation of medical processes is critically important.

Contact Change Healthcare today or if you’re at HIMSS, drop by the Change Healthcare Booth 4202 to learn more about our imaging workflow solutions.

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