COVID-19 Pandemic Responses in Hospitals: Human Factors Contributions
Event Type
Discussion Panel
TimeWednesday, April 142:00pm - 3:00pm EDT
LocationHospital Environments
DescriptionDuring the Covid-19 pandemic, human factors engineering principles have been applied to multiple aspects of the hospital’s response. Operationally embedded human factors professionals have been highly involved in multi-pronged efforts to ensure safety, satisfaction, equity, and efficiency in the face of the novel coronavirus.

Evaluating PPE donning/doffing for frontline team member protection
• Evaluating PPE donning/doffing includes: Identifying need for separate isolation precaution, designing signage, creating and formatting PPE guidance document, participating in high-level discussions about team members’ trust in the system and ability to align with proposed policy changes.

Creating and improving system-based decision algorithms
• Creating and improving decision algorithms includes: Universal masking, testing for patients/parents, PPE for code response, eligibility for rapid testing).

Designing new processes
• Designing new processes: Social distancing plans and interventions (e.g., workflows, engineered controls, wayfinding for limited entry points, guidebooks, evaluating a food ordering platform to reduce cafeteria crowds), workflows (e.g., vaccine clinic, employee screening), code response role identification, n95 reprocessing, filters for bag-mask ventilation.

Product development and usability testing
• Product development and Usability testing includes: Designing novel personal protective equipment (PPE) for ophthalmologists and optometrists for protection, novel thermometer covers, temperature scanning equipment, screening booths, respirator filtration design, face shield development.

The human factors professionals used a range of HFE methods, including—but not limited to—observations, interviews, usability testing, heuristic evaluations, task analyses, risk assessments, and application of knowledge of human capabilities and limitations to guide work. All of this work was quality improvement related to improving programs, processes, and systems, both existing (e.g., impacted by changes related by Covid-19) and novel (introduced at hospitals to directly address Covid-19).

The main goal of this panel discussion is to provide insights into the work of embedded human factors professionals to address Covid-19 in hospitals with a strong focus on patient and team member safety. The panelists had a range of involvement in their respective hospitals’ Covid-19 pandemic responses, ranging from 1-2 projects with a short time commitment to involvement with dozens of projects with full time dedication to these projects over the span of months. Additionally, the panelists include full time employment in hospital operations, part-time employment in hospital operations, and serving as a leader and active frontline provider during the pandemic response. Discussion will include how panelists were engaged in this work, level of involvement, example projects, highlights, challenges, and lessons learned.

Panelist Backgrounds:

Laura Barg-Walkow, Ph.D., is a Human Factors Engineer at Children’s Hospital Colorado in Aurora, CO. Dr. Barg-Walkow is embedded in the patient safety department where she supports clinical operations. She partners with a range of stakeholders and end users throughout the entire healthcare system. Dr. Barg-Walkow’s work focuses on applied projects to improve safety, satisfaction, and efficiency in healthcare organizations.

Sarah Fouquet, Ph.D. is the Human Factors Scientist and Program Director at Children’s Mercy Hospital Kansas City. Sarah and her team are embedded within the Systems Reliability group, alongside Performance Improvement and Clinical Safety. Sarah works with multiple stakeholders throughout the hospital, including frontline staff and families to help design optimal experiences in the world of pediatrics.

Laurie Wolf is the Director of Human Factors Implementation at Carilion Clinic in Roanoke Virginia. Laurie and her team are embedded in the Quality & Patient Safety group at Carilion Clinic and are affiliated with Virginia Tech. They conduct usability assessments and investigate adverse events and identify trends and opportunities for improvement. Translational research and collaboration are conducted with multidisciplinary Innovation Teams. Her interests include improving safety, improving productivity, and reducing injury for both patients and staff.

Myrtede Alfred, Ph.D., is a Research Assistant Professor at the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) in Charleston, SC. Dr. Alfred works in the Embedded Human Factors and Clinical Safety Science Unit and is a member of MUSC’s Patient Safety Team and Patient and Family Centered Care Steering Committee. She conducts research on perioperative patient safety and works with multidisciplinary teams to improve the overall delivery of care in the hospital.

Rebecca Berg is a Human Factors Engineer at Yale New Haven Health System. Rebecca is embedded in SYN:APSE Center for Learning, Transformation, and Innovation. Rebecca’s work focuses on projects including workflow analysis, facility design, work process development, as well as usability and device testing.

Rollin J. (Terry) Fairbanks is vice president for quality & safety at MedStar Health, a ten-hospital health system in the Washington DC/Baltimore Maryland region, emergency medicine physician at MedStar Washington Hospital Center, and professor of emergency medicine at Georgetown University. He completed a master’s degree in human factors/industrial systems engineering at Virginia Tech while working as a paramedic prior to medical school. In 2010 Dr. Fairbanks founded the National Center for Human Factors in Healthcare, and has contributed to over 150 publications in the human factors and healthcare safety literature.
Human Factors Scientist and Program Director
Director of Human Factors Implementation