Our Medical Error Index

The past two decades have seen the problem of medical error come to light. Here is our version of the Harper’s Magazine Index applied to the problem of medical error:

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The Psychology of Human Error

While the consequences of medical errors can be devastating, in reality, medical errors are not unique. Medical errors are simply errors in a medical context. As such, we can turn to what we know about the nature of human error in general to understand why medical errors occur, what factors produce them, and how to design to reduce them.

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What is Human Factors Anyway?

Human Factors Defined

Human factors is the application of what we know about human capabilities and limitations to the design of equipment and devices in order to enable more productive, safe, and effective use.

Known also as usability engineering, cognitive ergonomics, or user-centered design, human factors is a marriage of psychology and engineering: the application of a scientific body of knowledge about human strengths and weaknesses to the design of technology.

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Why Users Don’t Make Good Designers

Some approaches to product development advocate engaging users directly in the design process, as co-designers. Along this line, a new client recently suggested that we organize several joint design sessions with their clinical advisory panel, and bring along a developer to the meetings who could incorporate the panel’s design ideas into a software prototype, “on-the-fly.” We (gently) moved our client away from this approach, by convincing them that in general, users don’t make good designers.

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