What We Do

The National Center for Human Factors in Healthcare brings together a diverse set of human factors and clinical experts to improve quality, efficiency, reliability, and safety in healthcare. A part of the MedStar Institute for Innovation (MI2) and the MedStar Health Research Institute (MHRI), the Center’s home and “research lab” is MedStar Health, a $6.1B not-for-profit healthcare organization. 

Our 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 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.

Learn more about what we do:

Research  We leverage theory to conduct applied research that addresses critical safety problems and contributes to the generation and dissemination of knowledge in the healthcare industry.

Education and Outreach  We offer dedicated training and mentoring to the next generation of human factors specialists, domestically and globally.

Usability Services  We contribute to the development of products and processes that are user-centered through understanding human capabilities and limitations.

Consulting Services  We provide a systems approach that assesses multiple factors and promotes a proactive path to safety.


For Clinicians

Our focus is on giving learners practical skills to integrate human factors principles into daily activities, rather than becoming an expert in human factors.

Currently we offer both half-day and full-day education sessions. We also offer a course for medical students through Georgetown University School of Medicine, designed to specifically to understand and apply human factors concepts throughout medical training.

For Human Factor Experts

As a human factors expert, understanding how human factors principles apply within different environments is imperative.

Healthcare is a complex and dynamic field with unique opportunities for human factors experts. For our researchers’ areas of interest and expertise, please click here.

Student Opportunities

We also offer a limited number of research internships each year to qualified students. We regularly work with psychology, engineering and medical students on different research projects.

Conferences, Workshops, and Speaking Engagements

The NCHFH hosts training opportunities throughout the year targeted to a wide range of healthcare professionals, from frontline staff to executives as well as to human factors professionals interested in healthcare.


We also offer tailored education opportunities in half and full day as well as multi-day workshops. If you are interested in learning more, please contact us!

For more information about education, please contact Terry Fairbanks at [email protected].

Consulting Services

Whether you are a healthcare organization looking for an objective hazard analysis, a medical device manufacturer in need of an FDA 510(k) human factors evaluation, or a professional organization simply looking for a human factors consult, our team has the expertise to assist. We are knowledgeable in methods such as conducting task analyses and work flow assessments, and also have specialized expertise in several healthcare relevant areas. Let us help you meet your safety goals.

Event Reviews and Hazard Analyses

Let our team of human factors engineers and clinical patient safety experts work to complement the services of your organization’s event review team.

We apply scientific principles from the safety engineering disciplines to identify system-based contributing factors, and to produce recommendations for sustainable, effective solutions. During our examination, we apply a systems engineering approach to consider the organizational, medical device, work process, people, and environmental factors that led to the event. Strict confidentiality of data and reports is always our priority.


The Usability division at the National Center for Human Factors in Healthcare provides customized usability consultations and testing across the product development process.

View the usability page.

For more information about consulting, please contact Lawrence Wolpert at [email protected].

Usability Services

We provide customized usability consultations and testing throughout the product development process. Through MedStar Health, our usability experts have direct access to healthcare domain specialists and end users in a wide array of clinical settings and use environments. From directed customer needs assessments to complex clinical simulations, we connect developers with clinical subject matter experts to optimize feedback specific for your product. Our services promote safe, marketable and effective products that will be market-ready faster.

Medical Device Usability Evaluation

We analyze usability through tailored evaluations for your unique product and development needs.

From directed customer needs assessments to complex clinical simulations, Usability Services connects developers with clinical subject matter experts to maximize feedback specific for your product.

Guidance for FDA Regulatory Submission

Is your product on track for regulatory approval?

We conduct all necessary evaluations to meet regulations such as:

  • 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.

Customized Approach at All Stages of Development

We can help at any stage of the product development lifecycle.

Our team performs formative and summative testing for both pre-market and post-market activities. Getting started with early-stage formative tests can save you time and money before final prototypes have been created, and we also plan and coordinate summative tests to provide the necessary documentation for regulatory approval.

Examples of our core competencies throughout the product lifecycle include:

Types of Products We Evaluate

Our usability experts have the experience and expertise to evaluate a wide range of medical devices and products.

Our capabilities include evaluation of:

  • Medical Devices in All Healthcare Domains
  • Medical Device Accessories
  • Websites and Mobile Applications
  • Health Information Technology 
  • Documentation and Training
  • Anthropometrics and Accessibility
  • Signage and Labeling
  • Instructions for Use

Testing Environments for All Needs

Partnering with Usability Services gives you access to a variety of settings and users to aid in the development of your products.

Our staff and collaborative partners have a wide range of expertise across multiple settings, including: static laboratory (heuristic/expert reviews), usability laboratory, and in-situ testing (in the actual use environment). In addition, our SiTEL Simulation center gives you access to a rich array of simulation environments including high fidelity patient-based healthcare simulators, IT prototype development, “serious game-based” simulation, and others. We also offer an unparalleled “actual use environment” laboratory within MedStar Health.


Guest column series on Med Device Online by Natalie Abts

How To Effectively Evaluate Instructional Materials and Labeling Before Development Is Complete

For more information about usability, please contact Lawrence Wolpert at [email protected].


Our research team focuses on leveraging theory to conduct applied research that addresses critical safety problems in healthcare. With unparalleled access to a 10-hospital healthcare system, a diverse range of clinical expertise, and expertise in human factors, applied cognition, and safety engineering we are the nation's innovative leader in human factors and healthcare research.


We have expertise rigorously applying a variety of methods, including: 

General methods are used to answer specific questions about human behavior in complex environments. 

  • Focus groups and interviews
  • Time motion studies
  • Ethnography/Observations
  • Eye tracking
  • Physiological sensors
  • Data mining

Modeling focuses on developing quantitative techniques to understand human behavior and interactions with their environment. 

  • Machine learning & statistical models
  • Natural language processing 
  • Mental models
  • Predictive analytics

Usability methods focus on identifying identifying user needs, designing and developing for these needs, and assessing to ensure they are met. 

  • Heuristic analysis
  • Task analysis
  • User-centered design
  • Usability testing 

Safety and risk assessment methods focus on identifying potential points of failure.                                                                                                                 

  • Failure mode effects analysis
  • Human error identification
  • Incident investigation
  • Space syntax

Publications, Videos, and Tools

Click here to view our Publications and Videos

Click here to view our Electronic Health Record User-centered Design Evaluation Framework


MedStar Health combines the best aspects of academic medicine, research, and innovation with a complete spectrum of clinical services to advance patient care. As the largest healthcare provider in Maryland and the Washington, D.C. region, MedStar’s 10 hospitals, the MedStar Health Research Institute, and a comprehensive group of healthcare organizations are recognized regionally and nationally for excellence in medical care. MedStar has one of the largest graduate medical education programs in the country, training more than 1,100 medical residents annually, and is the medical education and clinical partner of Georgetown University. MedStar is a $4.2 billion, not-for-profit, regional healthcare system based in Columbia, Maryland. MedStar’s 30,000 associates and 6,000 affiliated physicians support its patient-first philosophy.

Funding and Collaboration

Our research team has a track record of successful funding from government institutions, private companies, and foundations.

We embrace a fully collaborative culture and are directly engaged with institutions from both the public and private sectors. Our partners range from small start-ups to large organizations, and we work closely with these partners to develop new insights and practices in healthcare.

List of funding partners:
List of collaborators: Note, clients of the usability division are not listed to protect their privacy. A list of references can be provided upon request.

For more information about research, please contact us at [email protected].