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Human Factors: Developing the right Technology and Training in Healthcare

November 18, 2020 @ 11:00 am - 12:00 pm AEDT

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By Professor Marcus Watson


Modern healthcare systems are good but could be much better. Healthcare is an evolved complex socio-technical system rather than a designed system, which has resulted in spiraling costs and high rates of harm to patients. Less than 100 years ago the majority of the complexity of healthcare originated from clinicians’ skills and their network of other clinicians. Today, the diversity of specializations, pharmaceuticals, medical technologies, information systems and financial systems have increased the complexity exponentially. Our clinical training has not evolved a great deal from the models populated across the world at the beginning of the last century.  Medical, nursing and allied health students are still trained with a focus on their relationship with their patients rather than their role in a system caring for many people. Similarly, the majority of healthcare processes and treatments have little evidence to guide safe and efficient implementation.

Unlike industries such as aviation where human factors and systems engineering underpins everything from the design of cockpits to planning and coordination of international flights; healthcare systems have been designed by committees whose training is often based on outdated concepts of systems. Although new pharmaceuticals and implants require highly controlled clinical trials before they can be implemented, many other critical components such as the medical equipment and the records systems, and clinicians’ proficiencies required no or minimal evidence. Poorly designed technologies, processes and systems not only have negative consequences for patients, they adversely affect the clinicians’ who care for them. Examples from clinical technologies, patient record-keeping systems, inter-department patient management and medical education will be used to illustrate why healthcare needs to catch up with other complex socio-technical systems and imbed human factors and systems engineering in the implementation of patient care. 


Marcus is an Honorary Professor in the Faculty of Health and Behavioural Sciences, at The University of Queensland where he leads research on human factors, systems engineering, education and design. He has extensive knowledge of simulations in healthcare and defence and is a national leader in simulation-based research. His national roles in simulation include being the past Chair of Simulation Australasia, and a founding member and past Chair of the Australian Society for Simulations in Healthcare.

Prof. Marcus Watson is actively involved in medical information systems design and education. He has delivered international keynotes, plenaries, and workshops including simulations development, serious games, online learning and human factors in healthcare, and has extensive experience as a developer and instructor working with computer-based simulation, high-end immersive simulation, serious games and distributed learning. He has received national awards for innovation.

Zoom meeting:

Organised by: IEEE SMC Victorian Chapter