PsychEng Seminar 2022 November 22: Prof. Patricia Trbovich, U of T Institute of Health Policy, Management and Evaluation

Tuesday, November 22, 2022

Room 2135, Bahen Centre
40 St. George Street

Speaker: Prof. Patricia Trbovich
Associate Professor, Institute of Health Policy, Management and Evaluation, University of Toronto

Title: Introduction to Human Factors and User Centred Design in Healthcare Safety


Healthcare is under huge pressure. Overstretched budgets, rising costs, staff shortages, and significant patient volumes increase the likelihood of safety incidents. The rate of serious safety events in Canada has not decreased significantly in the past 20 years, despite dedicated efforts and resources to do so. We need more effective ways to ensure patient safety. Analyses of safety incidents have revealed a wide range of contributing factors. Too often, however, investigative teams focus on the first causal factor identified (e.g., staff violation of a policy) rather than considering such factors holistically as parts of a sociotechnical system (i.e., interactions between people and technology embedded in an organizational structure). Moreover, investigative teams often jump to corrective actions on the basis of a single case analyzed using a single method and overestimate the importance of some factors, potentially missing other important contributing factors altogether. Consequently, interventions are implemented that do not address the causal factors as intended and may even introduce new risks. Aligning corrective actions to causal factors is key to identifying effective interventions. Application of Human Factors is needed to assist hospitals with analysis of incidents to uncover and resolve deep system problems by prompting thinking around proper alignment between corrective actions and causal factors and by generating evidence about which corrective actions should subsequently be implemented.

This talk will provide the learner with an introduction to Human Factors and how it relates to and affects health care safety. The presentation focuses on key concepts and methods (e.g., heuristic evaluation and usability testing) in human factors research and practice and identifies how these can be applied to and tailored depending on the health care issue. Examples of innovative methods to study patient safety will be described. This knowledge is relevant to policy makers, practicing clinicians, health care managers, and health services researchers.


Patricia Trbovich is Associate Professor in the Institute of Health Policy, Management and Evaluation and cross appointed at the Institute of Biomedical Engineering at the University of Toronto. She holds the Badeau Family Research Chair in Patient Safety and Quality Improvement at North York General Hospital, and is the Research and Scholarship Lead for the Centre for Quality Improvement and Patient Safety (C-QuIPS).

Patricia leads HumanEra, a team of human factors researchers dedicated to studying and improving safety and performance in health care. Her current research includes two Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) funded projects; one focused on improving opioid guidance for Canadian hospitals and a second focused on improving surgical safety by reducing safety threats and enhancing resilience supports. She also holds a Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) grant focused on operator decision making during uncertainty in surgery, using the Operating Room Black Box.

She has promoted knowledge of Human Factors engineering worldwide through her collaborations with researchers in Brazil and Spain to develop human factors expertise in their healthcare systems. She is Associate Editor for the BMJ Quality and Safety journal.

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