The quality and safety of care, especially in hospitals, remains a priority for the NHS. Studies report that about 1 in 10 patients admitted to hospital suffers some form of harm attributable to poor quality of care. For example, about 5% of deaths in English hospitals are preventable if care was optimised. Another example is avoidable deaths from sepsis – an immediate life-threatening condition which can be difficult to diagnose but is treatable with early antibiotic medication. It is estimated that 10,000 sepsis related deaths per year may be preventable with better quality of care.
Care typically occurs in busy NHS hospital settings where staff are working in complex systems under time, resource (human and non-human) and information constraints. In such challenging environments, human factors research suggests that a key underlying latent factor to ensuring high quality care relates to the situational awareness and mental workload of staff which includes the (in)ability to integrate disparate pieces of information and determine what is important.
A major strategy to address information chaos is the use of electronic patient records with automated tools designed to support the clinical decision-making process by reducing mental workload and raising situational awareness.