Human Factors Engineering (HFE) is an interdisciplinary approach to evaluating and improving the safety, efficiency, and robustness of work systems, such as healthcare delivery. Human Factors scientists and engineers study the intersection of people, technology, policy, and work across multiple domains, using an interdisciplinary approach that draws from cognitive psychology, organizational psychology, human performance, industrial engineering, systems engineering, and economic theory. HFE addresses multiple aspects of work, including:
Task Analysis and Design: Human Factors (HF) engineers use a variety of techniques, such as ethnographic observations of work in situ, structured interviews of practitioners, and simulation studies, to probe how work is practiced. Task analysis techniques transform this data into information about the cognitive demands of work and how practitioners have adapted to efficiently achieve the goals of the work domain. By understanding what makes a task easy for practitioners and what makes it hard, better procedures, policy, and tools can be developed to support practitioners' work.
Device Evaluation and Usability: Devices, IT systems, and other tools are an integral part of supporting the human component of modern work systems. However, technology can be both a help and a hindrance; a poorly-designed tool can adversely impact overall systems performance by slowing work and in some cases even inducing so-called "human error." HFE scientists and engineers evaluate devices using techniques such as usability studies to determine potential sources of use error, with the goal of improving devices so that they fit the needs and workflow of practitioners.
Communication, Collaboration, and Teamwork: Work is almost always a team effort. HFE studies how teams interact, how interactions across organizational boundaries influence performance, and how communication technologies impact teamwork, with the goal of designing better tools and techniques to create effective teams.
Training: HF scientists and engineers analyze the most effective methods to train practitioners by discovering the sources of expert performance, how expert practitioners carry out work, and how humans acquire expertise in work.
Systems Resilience, Adaptation, and Failure: HFE studies how systems change and adapt to new pressures over time. Using accident investigations, sentinel events, "near miss" cases, and ethnography as inputs, HF scientists and engineers influence policy decisions and design of technology to make systems more resilient in the face of shifting demands.