Human error theory in health care

Electronic records in the ER: As ER doctors and nurses grapple with the transition to digitized record systems, these mistakes seem to be happening more frequently. One of the major promises of the federal stimulus program that provided financial incentives to hospitals that adopted EHRs was a reduction in errors as they linked physician and hospital patient records. Doctors and nurses rush between patients, often juggling multiple cases.

Human error theory in health care

Instead, the surgeon performs a completely different procedure —a carpal tunnel release.

To Err is Human: Building a Safer Health System.

How could this happen? Medicine has traditionally treated errors as failings on the part of individual providers, reflecting inadequate knowledge or skill. The systems approach, by contrast, takes the view that most errors reflect predictable human failings in the context of poorly designed systems e.

Rather than focusing corrective efforts on punishment or remediation, the systems approach seeks to identify situations or factors likely to give rise to human error, and change the underlying systems of care in order to reduce the occurrence of errors or minimize their impact on patients.

The modern field of systems analysis was pioneered by the British psychologist James Reasonwhose analysis of industrial accidents led to fundamental insights about the nature of preventable adverse events. Reason's analysis of errors in fields as diverse as aviation and nuclear power revealed that catastrophic safety failures are almost never caused by isolated errors committed by individuals.

Instead, most accidents result from multiple, smaller errors in environments with serious underlying system flaws. Reason introduced the Swiss Cheese model to describe this phenomenon.


In this model, errors made by individuals result in disastrous consequences due to flawed systems—the holes in the cheese. This model not only has tremendous explanatory power, it also helps point the way toward solutions—encouraging personnel to try to identify the holes and to both shrink their size and create enough overlap so that they never line up in the future.

Human error theory in health care

The Swiss Cheese Model of Medical Errors Another of Reason's key insights, one that sadly remains underemphasized today, is that human error is inevitable, especially in systems as complex as health care. Simply striving for perfection—or punishing individuals who make mistakes—will not appreciably improve safety, as expecting flawless performance from human beings working in complex, high-stress environments is unrealistic.

The systems approach holds that efforts to catch human errors before they occur or block them from causing harm will ultimately be more fruitful than ones that seek to somehow create flawless providers. Reason used the terms active errors and latent errors to distinguish individual from system errors.

Human error theory in health care

Active errors almost always involve frontline personnel and occur at the point of contact between a human and some aspect of a larger system e. By contrast, latent errors are literally accidents waiting to happen—failures of organization or design that allow the inevitable active errors to cause harm.

The terms sharp end and blunt end correspond to active error and latent error. Personnel at the sharp end may literally be holding a scalpel when the error is committed, e.

How to Write a Summary of an Article? Every step in health care service contains intrinsic unsafe factors.
Building a Safer Health System" - included dramatic and now often-quoted statistics. At least 44, to 98, deaths may occur annually as a result of medical errors in US hospitals.
Creating Safety Systems in Health Care Organizations - To Err is Human - NCBI Bookshelf You can try to swat them one at a time, but there will always be others to take their place. The only effective remedy is to drain the swamps in which they breed.
This article has been cited by other articles in PMC. Abstract Background The importance of theory in underpinning interventions to promote effective professional practice is gaining recognition.

The blunt end refers to the many layers of the health care system not in direct contact with patients, but which influence the personnel and equipment at the sharp end that come into contact with patients.

The blunt end thus consists of those who set policy, manage health care institutions, or design medical devices, and other people and forces, which—though removed in time and space from direct patient care—nonetheless affect how care is delivered.

Errors at the sharp end can be further classified into slips and mistakes, based on the cognitive psychology of task-oriented behavior. Attentional behavior is characterized by conscious thought, analysis, and planning, as occurs in active problem solving. Schematic behavior refers to the many activities we perform reflexively, or as if acting on autopilot.

In this construct, slips represent failures of schematic behaviors, or lapses in concentration, and occur in the face of competing sensory or emotional distractions, fatigue, or stress.


Mistakes, by contrast, reflect incorrect choices, and more often reflect lack of experience, insufficient training, or outright negligence.

The work of James Reason and Dr. Charles Vincentanother pioneer in the field of error analysis, has established a commonly used classification scheme for latent errors that includes causes ranging from institutional factors e.

These are discussed in more detail in the Root Cause Analysis Primer. In the incorrect surgery case, the active, or sharp end, error was quite literally committed by the surgeon holding the scalpel. As in most cases, the active error is better classified as a slip, despite the complexity of the procedure.

The surgeon was distracted by competing patient care needs an inpatient consultation and an emotionally taxing incident a previous patient suffered extreme anxiety immediately postoperatively, requiring him to console her.Reflecting on lessons from 10 years of the IHI Open School, this article shares five practical ideas for how can health care organizations can engage the next generation of health professionals as powerful change agents and leaders.

Introduction Patient safety is a basic standard of health care. Every step in health care service contains intrinsic unsafe combination among newest technologies, health innovations and treatments have introduced a synergistic development in health care industry, and transformed it .

Summary points. Two approaches to the problem of human fallibility exist: the person and the system approaches. The person approach focuses on the errors of individuals, blaming them for forgetfulness, inattention, or moral weakness.

Human Factors in Healthcare A Concordat from the National Quality Board November 2 Patient Stories A performing, resilient and efficient healthcare system which protects patients by minimising human errors in healthcare delivery and is constantly aspiring for excellence through quality improvement.

So, supporting the NHS to do the. Patient safety is a basic standard of health care. Every step in health care service contains intrinsic unsafe combination among newest technologies, health innovations and treatments have introduced a synergistic development in health care industry, and transformed it into more complex.

Human factors in nursing: The time is now AUTHOR Lynette A. Fryer RN, RPN, Ma Clinical Leadership. Health care service provision is complex, but understanding the underpinning human factors of the work (latent errors) about human fallibility, then begin to resolve the conditions that provoke it.

“There is always an easy solution to.

Patient Safety: The Role of Human Factors and Systems Engineering