Human factors in robotic assisted surgery: Lessons from studies ‘in the Wild’

Ken Catchpole, Ann Bisantz, M. Susan Hallbeck, Matthias Weigl, Rebecca Randell, Merrick Kossack, Jennifer T. Anger

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


This article reviews studies conducted “in the wild” that explore the “ironies of automation” in Robotic Assisted Surgery (RAS). Workload may be reduced for the surgeon, but increased for other team members, with postural stress relocated rather than reduced, and the introduction of a range of new challenges, for example, in the need to control multiple arms, with multiple instruments; and the increased demands of being physically separated from the team. Workflow disruptions were not compared with other surgeries; however, the prevalence of equipment and training disruptions differs from other types of surgeries. A consistent observation is that communication and coordination problems are relatively frequent, suggesting that the surgical team may need to be trained to use specific verbal and non-verbal cues during surgery. RAS also changes the necessary size of the operating room instrument cleaning processes. These studies demonstrate the value of clinically-based human factors engineers working alongside surgical teams to improve the delivery of RAS.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)270-276
Number of pages7
JournalApplied Ergonomics
StatePublished - Jul 2019


  • Automation
  • Human factors
  • Robotics
  • Surgery
  • Teamwork
  • Workload

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Human Factors and Ergonomics
  • Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation
  • Safety, Risk, Reliability and Quality
  • Engineering (miscellaneous)


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