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