Empowering Patient Safety in Obstetrics: Navigating Human Factors with Technology

By: PeriGen

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Human factors science plays a pivotal role in the realm of obstetrics, where healthcare decisions and actions hold a profound impact on patient safety. Delayed recognition of clinical abnormalities, lapses in situational awareness, and the normalization of deviant practices may pose a risk to both maternal and fetal health. Healthcare environments are noisy with multiple distractors that continuously pose a threat to sustained attention, which is already challenged by the duration of a 12-hour work shift. Communication breakdowns further complicate the provision of quality care. These are all exacerbated by the increasingly complex pregnant patient. The ever-evolving landscape of healthcare technology offers promising solutions to address human factors and deliver safer healthcare in obstetrics.

Pregnant person holds their belly, they have on a hospital gown

Timely Recognition of Clinical Abnormalities

Recognizing complications promptly is crucial in obstetrics. The increasing medical complexity of the obstetric patient has led to an unappreciation of the new normal patient profile.  There is a staggering increase in pregnant patients with one or more co-morbidities associated with their pregnancy diagnosis, creating a high-risk situation during the labor process.  Delays in recognition of worsening conditions has been linked to poor outcomes for both the maternal and fetal patient. However, technology can help by providing real-time, objective monitoring and early warning systems, supporting earlier recognition and more timely interventions.

Enhancing Situational Awareness

Situational awareness can be summed up as using your five senses to know what is going on around you in your current environment and anticipating risks or threats while maintaining a keen sense of elapsing time. Tools to improve situational awareness have been utilized and well understood for years in industries with complex work environments where error has high, potentially catastrophic, risk for harm such as aviation, nuclear power, and healthcare.  In obstetrics, continuous assessment of labor progress, fetal heart rate response to contractions and labor, and the anticipation of potential complications, create a complex work environment.  Complex environments require a stopwatch approach to care, ensuring that as time continues to move, the obstetric clinician does not lose track of when abnormal findings started and how long the maternal and fetal patient have experienced these events. Technology can assist by offering tools that provide a comprehensive view of the patient’s condition, making it easier for healthcare providers to maintain awareness and act promptly.

Minimizing Normalization of Deviance

In the clinical environment, normalization of deviance is the process in which variation from recommended practices and acceptable behavior, becomes culturally normalized. Clinicians become accustomed to accepting this new version as normal. Over time, the continued deviation from approved best practice threatens patient care and poses a significant risk to patient safety. Technology can aid in reinforcing reliability in best practices by providing objective, automated, continuous notifications, and connectivity to facility expected guidelines (policy, procedure, algorithms, and/or established parameters).

Strengthening Chain of Command Communication

Communication breakdowns are a common factor in healthcare adverse events. Failure to communicate critical information, such as changes in fetal heart rate patterns or maternal conditions, can lead to delays in decision-making and interventions. Technology can be used to facilitate communications between clinicians as well as a clinical escalation tool, automatically escalating troubling trends.

Human factors in obstetrics can pose significant threats to patient safety, but technology offers a powerful solution. By providing real-time data analysis, decision support, and tools for improved communication, technology can help healthcare providers mitigate human factors and deliver safer, quality care to expectant mothers and newborns.

Learn more about PeriGen and their solutions for enhancing perinatal safety by visiting their page here.

References

Carvalho OMC, Junior ABV, Augusto MCC, Leite ÁJM, Nobre RA, Bessa OAAC, de Castro ECM, Lopes FNB, Carvalho FHC. Delays in obstetric care increase the risk of neonatal near-miss morbidity events and death: a case-control study. BMC Pregnancy Childbirth. 2020 Jul 29;20(1):437. doi: 10.1186/s12884-020-03128-y. PMID: 32727418; PMCID: PMC7391531.

Getnet MA, Bifftu BB. Work Interruption Experienced by Nurses during Medication Administration Process and Associated Factors, Northwest Ethiopia. Nurs Res Pract. 2017;2017:8937490. doi: 10.1155/2017/8937490. Epub 2017 Nov 20. Erratum in: Nurs Res Pract. 2019 Sep 5;2019:6106932. PMID: 29359042; PMCID: PMC5735655.

Grissinger M. Sidetracks on the safety express: interruptions lead to errors and … wait, what was I doing? P T. 2015 Mar;40(3):145-90. PMID: 25798035; PMCID: PMC4357347.

Learn more about PeriGen

PeriGen is the global leader in AI-powered perinatal care solutions. Each PeriGen solution has been designed to help clinicians improve clinical practice and patient safety. By working together, we can assist care teams in promoting the best possible outcomes for moms and infants.