Effective Remote Human Factors Support During COVID-19: Challenges and Lessons Learned
Authors: Anthony Soung-Yee, Carleene Bañez, Stefano Gelmi, Catherine Gaulton, Trevor Hall
Abstract: As with many aspects of our personal and professional lives, the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the way that human factors researchers and specialists are able to conduct their work. As an organization providing human factors, patient safety, and risk management support nationally to healthcare institutions, we have had to adapt our established processes to find innovative solutions to continue our research and our work. Namely, we have had to work remotely from our partners and collaborators, which severely restricts opportunities for field work and first-hand observations. Besides the obvious challenges with technology and connectivity issues, we had to be mindful of our stakeholders and participants knowing that ‘Zoom fatigue’ was and continues to impact individuals both mentally and physically. As well, as practitioners we feel restricted in building a rapport with various end users, which is an essential component for understanding the stakeholder needs. In this talk, we present a number of strategies and best practices, including the use of electronic tools and tips for engagement and collaboration during virtual sessions. As well, we highlight the new opportunities that remote work affords the human factors specialist.We present these techniques within the context of patient safety projects conducted over the past year. In 2021, we partnered with a healthcare delivery institution to conduct a virtual Failure Mode and Effects Analysis (FMEA). The FMEA was conducted remotely via Zoom with five two-hour sessions, as physical distancing rules were in effect. In order to balance time commitments and Zoom fatigue, two-hour sessions were found to be sufficient for productive discussions while also respecting stakeholders’ schedules and care responsibilities. Furthermore, we decided on a dedicated facilitator to avoid cognitive overload and to avoid having to time-share between a number of responsibilities at the expense of a productive conversation. In the full talk, we discuss a number of other strategies on using technological aids to facilitate discussion, maintaining an amicable and open work environment, and staying on schedule. As well, we discuss the opportunities afforded by remote work, such as being able to provide support to a large number of organizations across the country without the overhead of travel.We anticipate that hybrid and remote work will continue to be part of the work reality for human factors specialists in healthcare for the foreseeable future. We have adopted these techniques into our standard practice, and believe that human factors practitioners will value hearing details about conducting these sessions in a remote setting. In particular, we provide lessons learned for scheduling and preparing for the sessions, collecting user data using a web-based voting system, and the challenges of logistics of running remote sessions. These will be practical and useful for specialists and researchers planning to conduct remote sessions with healthcare providers.
Keywords: human factors, healthcare, remote work, FMEA
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