The prevalence of medical errors and the difficulty of using medical devices are such common complaints among health care providers and patients that I won’t bore you with the usual statistics. I think we all know these are grand challenges for the HF/E profession. But a look back at a 2012 article in User Experience magazine by Shannon Clark and Ed Israelski reminded me of how little progress we seem to be making. They share a few famous health care human factors stories that we see in the mass media whenever there is a major incident, but then fade into the background when the general public’s limited attention span runs its course. I was reminded of this when reviewing the program of the 2015 Human Factors in Health Care conference.
Perhaps you have heard stories of a doctor operating on or amputating the wrong limb. Even though this is an age-old problem, some medical devices cause the user to confuse the sides of the body, consequently leading to recalls of the devices. Just last year, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recalled a software system because the interface led doctors to confuse the left and right sides of the brain when evaluating patients. Imagine the consequences of this design flaw during brain surgery!