Sir Edward Youde Memorial Fellowship recipient studies the “Human Factor” in medical settings
Hong Kong has a world-class healthcare system, but occasional medical accidents remind us that more can be done to ensure patient safety. “We used to think technology is a synonym for progress, but technology-related medical incidents do happen in hospitals. It drove me to research the safety of medical technology,” said MPhil student Tse Man-kei, who is one of the five postgraduate research students in Hong Kong receiving the Sir Edward Youde Memorial Fellowships in 2017/18.
Man-kei, from the Department of Applied Psychology, is currently carrying out a simulation study to compare automated and manual charting methods for anesthesiologists’ alertness, awareness of changes in patients’ conditions, and mental workload. What sparked her interest in the study of the “Human Factor” in modern medicine? “I was inspired by my thesis supervisor Prof Simon Li, whose research helps to optimise human performance and reduce human error,” she said. With Prof Li’s introduction to anesthetists at a local hospital, she had the chance to observe them in the operation room for several months.
While it is a common practice for anesthetists to rely heavily on information technology such as the Anesthesia Information Management system, which records patients’ vital signs in the operating room, Man-kei asked whether IT might hinder human performance or even predispose humans to make mistakes. “Prof Li has provided me with a lot of valuable advice on my study because he had done research in similar settings,” she explained.
Despite being a new research area in Hong Kong, “Human Factor” studies appear to have useful applications in the local healthcare environment. “I hope I can apply my ‘Human Factor’ knowledge in my future job and raise public awareness of the importance of patient safety,” she said. She aspires to work in a hospital after graduation and continues her research on patient safety issues.