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Human Factors in healthcare

Human Factors is defined as “the scientific discipline concerned with the understanding of interactions among humans and other elements of a system and the profession that applies theory, principles data and methods to design in order to optimise human well-being and overall system performance” (IEA,2000)

Human factors has been described as a bridging discipline. It establishes common ground between humans and their working environments. Human factors draws on many fields such as psychology, anatomy, physiology, social sciences, engineering, design and organisational management. Human factors uses a wide range of theories, measures, and approaches in order to improve the safety, quality and efficiency of workplaces. Human factors is particularly important in healthcare as it is characterised by high levels of human-to-human as well as human-to-technology interactions (HSE, 2021).

A guide to Human Factors in healthcare (PDF, 4 MB,102 pages)

In healthcare, the focus of human factors has been to improve patient/service user safety. However, human factors also has much to offer to the areas of quality improvement, efficiency as well as staff and patient/service user well-being.

  • Safety improvement - a human factors approach can support our understanding of the contributors to great care and experience as well as to incidents that can occur at all levels of the healthcare system.
  • Quality improvement - human factors approach can support improvements in the quality of care, work practices, and workforce satisfaction by bringing a depth and understanding to issues that can arise and proactively testing and implementing solutions to reduce or prevent their impact.
  • Increased efficiency - a human factors approach can support an improved understanding of how work processes and systems can be designed in order to optimise performance, productivity, and cost effectiveness.

Applying human factors thinking and practices complements other approaches such as quality improvement, risk management, open disclosure, person-centred practice and just culture in helping us to learn from excellence and incidents, reduce preventable errors and improve patient safety, staff well-being and performance.

Human Factors Training programmes

Introduction to Human Factors

This 30 minute, self-directed e-learning programme is suitable for everyone, staff and patient partners. The programme introduces what we mean by ‘Human Factors’ and gives you an appreciation of how it can help us to improve well-being and make our practices and healthcare systems safer.

The programme is available on

Foundation in Human Factors

This is a 1 day facilitated workshop for teams (staff and/or patient partners) that provides a foundation in Human Factors knowledge and how we can use this to improve our well-being and performance, at individual and team levels.

For more information see QPS Prospectus 2023 (PDF, 7 MB, 87 pages)

Email inquiries to: or

Information & Resources

Human Factors Guide 2021

This guide has been written for all healthcare workers. The primary aim is to provide an understanding of the principles and application of human factors and how it can be used to improve safety in healthcare.