By Lyons & Kidd
Effective patient management requires a combination of timely diagnosis, appropriate medical management and application of human factors. Human factors is the study and application of human interaction with the systems around them. It combines engineering and psychology, and a recognition that humans are not machines and subsequently make mistakes. In order for a system to be robust, it needs to take these factors into account.
In other industries, the role of human factors in developing a robust safety culture is well-established. Human factors and non-technical skills are increasingly recognised as a cornerstone of effective management in high stress situations where critical decisions are being made. Nowhere is this more applicable than within critical care.
Closely allied to human factors are non-technical skills. These comprise Communication, Teamwork, Leadership and Situational Awareness – of which Communication is generally regarded as the most vital. These four aspects are vital for effective patient care, particularly in a critical situation. However, for a number of reasons they can become easily compromised – at exactly the time when you need them most. If one fails, there can often be a loss of the other aspects, for example a loss of Situational Awareness in a high-stress situation can result in a failure of Communication, and thus Teamwork. All this can result in poor patient care, or even patient harm.
Using a number of examples, this Podcast discusses some learning points that we can take from both other industries as well as cases of medical error. Strategies to improve the systems we work in are discussed, many of which are now common place in the workplace such as checklists, protocols, standardisation and forcing functions.