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A critical review of the systems approach within patient safety research

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journal contribution
posted on 18.02.2010 by Patrick Waterson
The application of concepts, theories and methods from systems ergonomics within patient safety has proved to be an expanding area of research and application in the last decade. This paper aims to take a step back and examine what types of research have been conducted so far and use the results to suggest new ways forward. An analysis of a selection of the patient safety literature suggests that research has so far focused on human error, frameworks for safety and risk, and incident reporting. The majority of studies have addressed system concerns at an individual level of analysis with only a few analysing systems across multiple system boundaries. Based on the findings it is argued that future research needs to move away from a concentration on errors and towards an examination of the connections between systems levels. Examples of how this could be achieved are described in the paper.



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This is a pre-print of a paper accepted to be published in the journal, Ergonomics [© Taylor & Francis]. The definitive version: WATERSON, P., 2009. A critical review of the systems approach within patient safety research. Ergonomics, 52 (10), pp. 1185 - 1195, is available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/00140130903042782