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Research | Human Factors and Simulation

Human Factors is the application of a body of knowledge to the designs of devices, systems, tasks, procedures and environments for efficient, safe, and comfortable human use.

For more information on W21C's Human Factors Program, please contact: Greg Hallihan.

The W21C's state of the art Healthcare Human Factors and Simulation Laboratory (HHFSL) offers a highly adaptable-observational environment that can be configured to create realistic scenarios and spaces that are comparable to actual health care environments. In addition to performing research in the simulation lab, the Human Factors Team has the capability to conduct research outside of the laboratory setting, creating a portable lab environment.

Our Human Factors Team conducts research in and out of the lab focusing on improving health care safety.
The HHFSL core research themes are:

  • Architectural Usability
  • Systems Integration
  • Health Technology Evaluation

HHFSL Specifications

The HHFSL is a state-of-the-art research simulation laboratory that allows W21C researchers to examine the way individuals interact with health care technologies, systems, and environments: 


  •  An adaptable 20 square meter simulation environment realistically simulates a range of clinical and non-clinical environments integrated with 10 square meter control/observation room.
  •  Multiple Human Patient Simulators reliably model adaptive and realistic subject patient interactions within the Lab or in real world environments.
    • CAE Healthcare’s iStan and ECS patient simulators allow for high-fidelity real-time patient simulation with advanced physiological modeling and realistic patient responses to a wide range of medical procedures (e.g., defibrillation, drug administration).
    • Simulators for specific procedures or scenarios can be integrated with the HHFSL on a case by case basis to answer unique research questions.
    • Standardized patients provide researchers with additional flexibility in simulating realistic research scenarios.


  • Eight ceiling mounted PTZ video cameras and four directional compression microphones allow in detailed observation and recording of interactions between person, task and environment.
  • Multiple ASL MobileEye eye tracking systems allow researchers to see interactions between subjects, environment and technology through the subjects’ own eyes, providing insight into cognitive processes beyond subjective participant responses.
  • Noldus Media Recorder and METIVision provide the ability to seamlessly integrate video and audio data collected in the HHFSL including data from novel health care technologies utilized during simulation and patient simulators.


  • The HHFSL’s hardware and software infrastructure allow researchers to integrate comprehensive data portfolios with a number of analytical tools (e.g., Noldus Observer XT v.11.5, SPSS v.20) to perform detailed behavioural and statistical analyses,compare subject performance measures, visualize complex data patterns, and evaluate the usability of health care technologies.
  • Integration with video production software allows researchers to present their results in innovative and accessible ways to a diverse group of audiences.

Health Technology Assessment

Evaluation of Automated Dispensing Cabinets

W21C and AHS partnered together to evaluate the design of several ADC for procurement by AHS for the new South Health Campus. Through usability testing and heuristic evaluation with nurse practitioners and pharmacy technologists, human factors experts were able to provide additional information to inform purchasing decisions to ensure AHS received the most usable device.

Design and Evaluation of Space and Environments

South Health Campus (SHC)

W21C partnered with AHS to evaluate and provide human factors expertise into the design of four different spaces at the new SHC: an outpatient room, an emergency department exam room, an acute care room, and an intensive care room. Design and usability changes made due to this research affected over 700 rooms and resulted in huge cost savings during hospital construction.

Design and Evaluation of Space and Environments

Evaluation of Ambulance Design

W21C has partnered with AHS to conduct a human factors evaluation of Emergency Medical Services ground ambulances. The project's goal is to develop evidence based design guidelines for enhanced patient and health care provider safety and efficiency of care.

Learn more about the study in this three minute video.

Integrative System Design and Evaluation

Systematic Review of Central Venous Catherization Checklists

Central venous catheter placement is a common and critical procedure often performed by residents. W21C team members conducted a systematic review of assessment tools for rating directly observed CVC performances to determine the procedure steps and key competencies that these tools evaluate. Findings suggest that many published CVC assessment tools are suboptimal and evaluators should be cautious when adopting competency assessment tools.

Health Technology Assessment

Human Factors – Use of Automated External Defibrillators on Female Patients

The human factors group is doing usability testing with a patient simulator dressed up as a female patient.  They will be studying the effect of patient sex on people's ability to properly use automatic external defibrillators.  Initial findings suggest that male patient simulators are insufficient for training purposes and understanding caregiver behavior.

Health Technology Assessment

Human Factors – Use of Automated External Defibrillators by the Elderly

The human factors group is evaluating two AEDs for use by an elderly population. A key goal of the study is to make sure that AEDs are designed so groups of people most likely likely to be affected by a sudden cardiac arrest (e.g., the elderly) can use them in a timely and effective manner.

Health Technology Assessment


W21C has partnered with XSENSOR® Technology Corporation to assist their development of the ForeSite™ pressure imaging system. The system is a thin flexible mattress overlay designed to monitor, record and analyze patient interface pressure on a hospital bed. W21C has conducted focus groups, heuristic evaluations, usability testing and clinical testing to provide feedback from potential end users on different device prototypes.