What We Do

Center Overview

Read the MedStar Human Factors Center Overview for the most recent summary of our work.


Our work extends far beyond one single health system. With a focus on increasing knowledge generation and transfer, seeking innovative strategies, and providing valuable insights to inform change, we work with more than 100 organizations in the U.S. and around the world.

The Center provides the following core services to improve healthcare safety, efficiency, and quality.

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Our applied research generates and disseminates new knowledge about how critical healthcare challenges, such as sepsis, for instance, are identified, tracked, and addressed in order to better support clinicians and enhance patient safety. Learn more.

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With usability expertise in human capabilities and limitations, our associates contribute to user-centered product and process development where it matters most, such as in pediatric dosing charts. Learn more.

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Safety Advisement

By promoting a proactive, systems approach to safety, and rejecting a “blame and shame culture” surrounding errors, we drive positive outcomes for a range of external and internal clients. Learn more.

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Education and Outreach

Our team provides dedicated training and mentoring to the next generation of human factors specialists, domestically and globally. Learn more.

Our Patient-First Philosophy

As part of the MedStar Health system, the Center’s unique, patient-first philosophy provides:

Access: Direct access to 10 hospitals and more than 280 diversified healthcare organizations in MedStar Health’s clinical environments, as well as frontline clinicians and patients in a wide array of clinical settings.

Expertise: Multi-disciplinary expertise including human factors engineers, clinicians, computer scientists, informatics experts, and environmental designers, as well as faculty partners that prioritize user needs.

Scientific Rigor: Nationally-recognized academic excellence that is operationally focused—MedStar Health is a leading medical institution and home to one of the largest graduate medical education programs, ground-breaking new technology, and a unique environment to spur innovation.

Our Approach

Our systems-based approach is defined through four areas of expertise across the human factors spectrum:

1. Human Technology Interaction: Ensure technology is designed, developed, and implemented to meet provider and patient needs; 2. Cognitive Engineering: Study mental processes such as memory, perception, and decision-making; 3. Physiological and Psychological Conditions: Study physiological factors and mental and emotional states; 4. Physical Ergonomics: Examine environmental factors to better support clinicians and patients

Our Methodology

We have expertise rigorously applying a variety of methods:

General: Answers specific questions about human behavior in complex environments through focus groups and interviews, time motion studies, ethnography/observations, eye tracking, physiological sensors, and data mining.  Modeling: Uses quantitative techniques to understand human behavior and interactions with their environment through machine learning and statistical models, natural language processing, mental models, and predictive analytics.  Usability: Identifies user needs, designs and develops for these needs, and assesses to ensure they are met through heuristic analysis, task analysis, user-centered design, and usability testing (summative/formative).  Safety and Risk Assessment: Identifies safety hazards and assesses risk through failure mode effects analysis, human error identification, incident investigation, and space syntax

Education and Outreach

Center Overview

Read the MedStar Human Factors Center Overview for the most recent summary of our work.


The Center’s education and outreach programs are dedicated to training and mentoring the next generation of human factors experts, from partner organizations in the U.S. to institutions around the world, further increasing the innovative footprint of human factors.

Educational opportunities exist for different types of experience levels and learners—from medical students to attending physicians and from human factors students to practitioners.

Courses and Workshops

Our clinicians and human factors engineers work across sectors and offer formal instruction on the application of human factors in healthcare. We work with industry partners to build topic-specific learning opportunities that can be offered for CME credits throughout the year. Applicable to a wide range of professionals, our courses and workshops benefit everyone from hospital system executives and software engineers, to human resources personnel and practicing physicians.

Expert Engagement + External Interactions

The Center is dedicated to generating and increasing knowledge about human factors. Through research, education, and usability services, we emphasize a variety of approaches to outreach, including roundtable discussions, public presentations, expert panels, and other networking opportunities to reach a wider audience. The Center is widely recognized for our work and contributions both domestically and internationally.

Student Program Mentoring

From high school students to PhD candidates and residents, we offer year-round mentoring opportunities for individuals seeking to learn about and gain hands-on experience with human factors. The Center’s internship program recruits for limited positions every Fall, Spring, and Summer and offers academic credit, if desired.

Safety Advisement

Center Overview

Read the MedStar Human Factors Center Overview for the most recent summary of our work.


Case Studies

Explore our work in patient safety event data analysis and display to improve interventions.


The Center’s safety advisement program offers direct service to MedStar Health and external organizations with services such as safety hazard analyses and event reviews.

By taking the following approach to safety, we develop recommendations and solutions to design a safer and more efficient healthcare environment.

Proactive Safety Analysis

Our team works to proactively identify safety hazards and reduce risk before harm occurs.

  • Usability testing during procurement: Assess medical devices and other technology for potential use errors.
  • Work environment analysis and optimization: Analyze work environments for unsafe work processes that may contribute to future patient harm and provide recommendations or redesign for safer and more efficient care.
  • Safety and risk assessment: Apply rigorous analytic and visualization techniques to identify trends in safety data and support prioritization of improvement processes.

Reactive Safety Analysis

Our team conducts in-depth analysis of harm events after they occur to identify contributing factors and develop solutions to help prevent future occurrences.

  • Event reviews: Analyze the role of the physical environment, technology, culture, and other system factors in relation to the harm event and provide recommendations for improvement.
  • Usability analysis: Test products to determine how they may have contributed to a harm event and provide recommendations internally and to the product manufacturer.

Promoting Safety Culture

Our experts encourage a culture of safety through education and outreach.

  • Just culture: Provide a foundation for a culture that supports open safety event reporting and risk mitigation, with a focus on system factors and not individual blame, through leadership engagement and workshops.
  • High reliability organizations: Develop organizations that focus on consistent, reliable, and safe practices through organizational change methods.

Usability Services

Center Overview

Read the MedStar Human Factors Center Overview for the most recent summary of our work.


The Center provides customized usability consultations across the product lifecycle—from initial concept to design to implementation—to meet users’ critical needs as digital health and innovative technology rapidly advance.

Our experts test the safety and effectiveness of products, providing valuable insight to ensure they are market-ready. Because of our unique setting within MedStar Health, the Center has unparalleled access to conduct usability tests in an actual clinical environment (in-situ testing).

In addition, MedStar Health’s extensive simulation centers provide a variety of test settings, including high-fidelity, patient-based healthcare simulators, “serious game-based” simulations, and others.

We have experience with:

  • Medical devices and combination products in all healthcare domains
  • Medical device accessories
  • Websites and mobile applications
  • Health IT (electronic health records, telehealth, etc.)
  • Home-use products
  • Training programs
  • Instructions for use
  • Signage and trainings

Examples of our approach at every stage of product development:

1. Product phase: Conceptualization; Usability tool examples: Ethnography, Focus Groups and Interviews, Legacy Systems Evaluations.  2. Product phase: Analysis; Usability tool examples: Use Cases and User Profiles, Task Analysis, Failure Modes and Effects Analysis 3. Product phase: Iterative Design; Usability tool examples: Heuristic Evaluation, Formative User Testing, Instruction and Labeling Assessment 4. Product phase: Validation; Usability tool examples: Summative User Testing, Root Cause Analysis, Evaluation of Residual Risk 5. Product phase: Procurement; Usability tool examples: Environmental Analysis, Comparative Usability Testing, Risk Verification 6. Product phase: Implementation; Usability tool examples: Training Evaluations, Work Systems Analysis, Proactive Risk Management 7. Product phase: Monitoring; Usability tool examples: Adverse Event Investigation, In-Situ Testing, Hazard Analysis

Usability Evaluation

Digital health is revolutionizing healthcare and making the intersection of technology and human interaction more essential than ever. It will take ongoing support and investment—backed by the right skills and knowledge—to better design and implement new processes and systems. With growth in digital health, the role of human factors is imperative to the safety of the technology and the patient and clinician experience.

Guidance for FDA Regulatory Submission

Our usability experts are continually working with the FDA and staying current on evolving requirements. We conduct evaluations for application of human factors to the design and development of medical devices and products to ensure compliance with FDA requirements. From assessing user needs, risk evaluation, and critical task identification, to formative and validation stage user testing, our processes are designed to comply with the standards for FDA submission.

As examples, our evaluations have pertained to the following regulations:

  • FDA Human Factors Guidance for 510(k) Pre-Market Approval
  • ANSI/AAMI HE75 Human Factors Engineering – Design of Medical Devices
  • ISO 62366 – Application of Usability Engineering to Medical Devices
  • ISO 9241 – Ergonomics of Human System Interaction
  • Other relevant medical application standards such as MIL, W3C, etc.


Center Overview

Read the MedStar Human Factors Center Overview for the most recent summary of our work.


Case Studies

Explore our work in cognitive engineering and acute care; sepsis decision support; and heart health risk management.


The Center is internationally recognized for our high impact applied research. We take a collaborative approach to research and have worked with federal agencies, medical associations, foundations, universities, and industry partners. Review the “What We Do” page for an overview of our research methodology.

Our Expertise in Action

The Center has published more than 100 peer-reviewed journal publications in top-tier journals such as JAMA, JAMA Pediatrics, and Health Affairs. See a list of our top publications here.

Publication Focus Areas: Technology: 4, Radiology: 5, Simulation: 1, Engineering: 2, Geriatrics: 1, Surgery: 4, Human Factors: 9, General: 2, Hospital Medicine: 2, Infection Control: 2, Diabetes: 1, Pediatrics: 3, Health Environments: 1, Quality and Safety: 12, Oncology: 1, Pharmacy: 2, Nursing: 5, Primary Care: 1, Informatics: 24, Critical Care: 2, and Emergency Medicine: 32

Research Excellence and R01 Awards

Research Project Grant (R01) awards from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services are among the most prestigious grant mechanisms.

Our top leaders are the principal investigators (PIs) on five Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ)-funded R01s that focus on:

  • analyzing and addressing primary care accessibility surrounding COVID-19;

  • easing medication-related safety event reporting, evaluation, and intervention;

  • improving the safety of electronic medication administration records;

  • establishing usability and safety guidelines for health information technology; and

  • developing technology to support emergency department communication.

They also serve as PIs on two National Institutes of Health (National Library of Medicine)-funded R01s on developing effective clinical decision support and better leveraging unstructured patient safety event report data to advance care.

Read overviews of our R01 awards and other high impact research grants here.

For more information about our research work or to explore possible collaboration opportunities, please contact us at [email protected].