Overcoming COVID-19: What can human factors and ergonomics offer?

Ayse P. Gurses, Megan M. Tschudy, Sharon McGrath-Morrow, Amyna Husain, Barry S. Solomon, Kylee A. Gerohristodoulos, Julia M. Kim

Research output: Contribution to journalComment/debatepeer-review


A novel coronavirus disease, named coronavirus disease 2019 or COVID-19, which sparked an outbreak in Wuhan, China in December 2019, is now a pandemic. The rapid spread of this disease from one to more than 155 regions worldwide in 2.5 months highlights the need for better preparation to manage a pandemic. In this commentary, we describe how Human Factors and Ergonomics (HFE) can contribute to the COVID-19 pandemic response. Specifically, we provide an example of how HFE methodologies informed workflow redesigns implemented as part of COVID-19 pandemic preparations in an academic pediatric ambulatory clinic. We then identify key mechanisms and areas where HFE can contribute to and improve the effectiveness of a pandemic response: Just-in-time (JIT) training development, adapting workflows and processes, restructuring teams and tasks, developing effective mechanisms and tools for communication, engaging patient and families to follow the recommended practices (e.g., social distancing, revised hospital visitation policies), identifying and mitigating barriers to implementation of plans, and learning from failures and successes to improve both the current and future pandemic responses. We recommend integrating HFE approaches and tools across health care systems, state health organizations, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as they confront this pandemic.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)49-54
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Patient Safety and Risk Management
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 1 2020


  • COVID-19
  • ambulatory care
  • ergonomics
  • pediatrics
  • risk evaluation and mitigation, human factors
  • safety

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Leadership and Management
  • Health(social science)
  • Health Policy


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