Human Factors Engineering

The Human Factors Engineering Program in the Mayo Clinic Kern Center for the Science of Heath Care Delivery applies engineering principles to improve systems and staff wellness across the enterprise — for example, optimizing patient and clinician scheduling or using a human factors approach to enable better teamwork to prevent clinician injuries.

Human Factors Engineering Program experts collaborate across Mayo Clinic's integrated practice, research and education shields. The program's goal is to continuously improve health care delivery systems through systems engineering, operations, research tools and complementary methodologies from other fields.

The program engages clinicians, collaborators and patients in identifying and solving relevant problems using scientific engineering methodology, thereby co-creating relevant solutions to complex health care problems and improving quality of life for patients and health care professionals.

Focus areas

The theories and techniques involved in human factors engineering include:

  • Cognitive engineering and neuroergonomics.
  • Physical ergonomics.
  • Sociotechnical systems engineering.
  • Mixed method research design and analysis.
  • Employment of cognitive and physical ergonomic engineering frameworks, theories and models.
  • Application of validated human factors engineering tools and strategies such as:
    • Workload assessment.
    • Cognitive task analysis.
    • Wearables.
    • Human systems integration.
    • Participatory ergonomics.
  • Work performed from the perspective of the humans in a system, such as patients, medical staff, and other users or stakeholders.


Operating room of the future

Human factors engineers in the Mayo Clinic Kern Center for the Science of Heath Care Delivery and the Department of Surgery are leading research on the operating room of the future.

This project uses human factors engineering and systems integration approaches to improve teamwork and safety in the operating room. It addresses physical and cognitive workload issues to increase efficiency, quality, and clinician and patient safety and satisfaction.


OR-Stretch is an intervention for the physical discomfort surgery imposes, which can be so severe that it shortens surgeons' careers. The intervention was created in Mayo Clinic's Human Factors Engineering Laboratory, which is led by Susan Hallbeck, Ph.D., the scientific director of the Human Factors Engineering Program.

OR-Stretch is being integrated into operating rooms at Mayo Clinic, across the country and around the world.

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Family medicine burnout prevention

The Human Factors Engineering Program is leading the development of a near real-time snapshot dashboard for assessing workload and clinical burden in the Mayo Clinic Department of Family Medicine. The dashboard can help department leaders quickly and frequently assess employees' workloads and clinical burdens and adjust them as needed to prevent burnout.

The research team is conducting a proof-of-concept study at Mayo Clinic Health System — Red Cedar in Menomonie, Wisconsin, with the goal of being scalable across the Mayo Clinic enterprise.

Clinician cognitive load and decision-making

This project studies clinicians' cognitive loads when making decisions about patients' diagnoses, treatments and management strategies. The program team is assessing clinicians' standard decision-making processes or approaches compared with decision-making with additional decision-support tools.

Biometric sensors of positive emotions

The purpose of this study is to evaluate the effectiveness of two types of biometric sensors — electroencephalography devices and galvanic skin response sensors — for objectively measuring positive emotions such as joy. Specifically, the project team is testing whether the biometric sensors show increased output levels in response to positive events and stimuli. The goal of the project is to assess whether the devices can reliably measure the presence of positive emotions in future research — for example, studies on joy in the workplace.

Improving health care for patients and staff

Human factors engineering projects focused on information and decision-making have deployed award-winning care delivery discoveries and demonstrated improvement in practice. Engineered solutions for patients provide improved safety, better access and timely, patient-centered care in areas including:

  • Emergency medicine.
  • Hospital services.
  • Radiology.
  • Surgery.

The program team develops solutions to ensure reduced staff burden and better planning and resource utilization.


Review publications on PubMed from health care systems and human factors engineering researchers at Mayo Clinic.