MEDICINE 700 : Designing Safer Systems

Medical and Health Sciences

2024 Semester Two (1245) (15 POINTS)

Course Prescription

The application of improvement science and safety science methods to achieve better outcomes for patients by reducing harm, waste and variation in health care; includes a focus on measurement for improvement and the application of human factors theory and concepts to design a safer and more reliable health care system.

Course Overview

The field of Quality and Safety in healthcare is now a dynamic and interdisciplinary one and this course will allow you to learn about how to detect and remove hazards in health care systems, better understand the factors that lead to clinical errors and system failures, and introduce initiatives that reduce patient harm, increase health care quality and control costs. 

The course format provides face-to-face discussion during teaching days, enabling exploration of some of the on-going debates and practical applications of course material to the real world. The course also involves guest lectures from a number of experts in fields related to the course material. 

Course Requirements

No pre-requisites or restrictions

Course Contacts

Assoc. Prof. Craig Webster, School of Medicine, Email:

Capabilities Developed in this Course

Capability 1: People and Place
Capability 2: Sustainability
Capability 3: Knowledge and Practice
Capability 4: Critical Thinking
Capability 5: Solution Seeking
Capability 6: Communication
Capability 8: Ethics and Professionalism

Learning Outcomes

By the end of this course, students will be able to:
  1. Apply an understanding of human psychology to the analysis of error causation (Capability 2.1, 3.1 and 5.1)
  2. Assess the differential abilities of humans and machines to maintain the safe operation of complex systems (Capability 2.1, 5.1 and 8.1)
  3. Compare the contribution of human factors and system factors to failures in healthcare provision (Capability 4.1, 8.1 and 8.3)
  4. Apply safety science to identify and investigate causes of harm, waste and variation in healthcare (Capability 1.1, 1.2, 2.1 and 3.1)
  5. Apply human factors approaches in the design and development of safer systems of care (Capability 4.1, 4.2 and 5.1)
  6. Develop appropriate measures to determine whether quality and safety have improved due to safety initiatives (Capability 5.1, 5.2, 6.1 and 6.2)


Assessment Type Percentage Classification
Assignments 35% Individual Coursework
Assignments 45% Individual Coursework
Reflection 20% Individual Coursework
Assessment Type Learning Outcome Addressed
1 2 3 4 5 6

Workload Expectations

This course is a standard 15 point course and students are expected to spend 10 hours per week involved in each 15 point course that they are enrolled in.

You can expect 28 hours of lectures/workshop teaching, approx. 60 hours of reading and thinking about the content and approx. 60 hours of work on assignments.

Delivery Mode

Campus Experience or Online

This course is offered in two delivery modes:

Campus Experience

Attendance is expected at scheduled activities including tutorials to complete components of the course.
Lectures will be available as recordings. Other learning activities including tutorials will be available as recordings.
The course will include live online events including group discussions.
Attendance on campus is not required for the assignments.
The activities for the course are scheduled as a block delivery.


Attendance is expected at scheduled online activities including tutorials to complete components of the course.
The course will include live online events including group discussions and these will be recorded.
Attendance on campus is not required for the assignments.
Where possible, study material will be available at course commencement throughout the course.
This course runs to the University semester/quarter timetable and all the associated completion dates and deadlines will apply.

Learning Resources

Course materials are made available in a learning and collaboration tool called Canvas which also includes reading lists and lecture recordings (where available).

Please remember that the recording of any class on a personal device requires the permission of the instructor.

An electronic reading list, full access to the University library and other learning resources are provided.

Student Feedback

At the end of every semester students will be invited to give feedback on the course and teaching through a tool called SET or Qualtrics. The lecturers and course co-ordinators will consider all feedback and respond with summaries and actions.

Your feedback helps teachers to improve the course and its delivery for future students.

Class Representatives in each class can take feedback to the department and faculty staff-student consultative committees.

Class Representatives in each class can take feedback to the department and faculty staff-student consultative committees.

Other Information

Course facilitators are available to guide students throughout the duration of this course and are happy to discuss elements or provide feedback at any point. In addition, online discussion forums aim to progress learning further. 

Academic Integrity

The University of Auckland will not tolerate cheating, or assisting others to cheat, and views cheating in coursework as a serious academic offence. The work that a student submits for grading must be the student's own work, reflecting their learning. Where work from other sources is used, it must be properly acknowledged and referenced. This requirement also applies to sources on the internet. A student's assessed work may be reviewed for potential plagiarism or other forms of academic misconduct, using computerised detection mechanisms.

Class Representatives

Class representatives are students tasked with representing student issues to departments, faculties, and the wider university. If you have a complaint about this course, please contact your class rep who will know how to raise it in the right channels. See your departmental noticeboard for contact details for your class reps.

Inclusive Learning

All students are asked to discuss any impairment related requirements privately, face to face and/or in written form with the course coordinator, lecturer or tutor.

Student Disability Services also provides support for students with a wide range of impairments, both visible and invisible, to succeed and excel at the University. For more information and contact details, please visit the Student Disability Services’ website

Special Circumstances

If your ability to complete assessed coursework is affected by illness or other personal circumstances outside of your control, contact a member of teaching staff as soon as possible before the assessment is due.

If your personal circumstances significantly affect your performance, or preparation, for an exam or eligible written test, refer to the University’s aegrotat or compassionate consideration page

This should be done as soon as possible and no later than seven days after the affected test or exam date.

Learning Continuity

In the event of an unexpected disruption, we undertake to maintain the continuity and standard of teaching and learning in all your courses throughout the year. If there are unexpected disruptions the University has contingency plans to ensure that access to your course continues and course assessment continues to meet the principles of the University’s assessment policy. Some adjustments may need to be made in emergencies. You will be kept fully informed by your course co-ordinator/director, and if disruption occurs you should refer to the university website for information about how to proceed.

The delivery mode may change depending on COVID restrictions. Any changes will be communicated through Canvas.

Student Charter and Responsibilities

The Student Charter assumes and acknowledges that students are active participants in the learning process and that they have responsibilities to the institution and the international community of scholars. The University expects that students will act at all times in a way that demonstrates respect for the rights of other students and staff so that the learning environment is both safe and productive. For further information visit Student Charter


Elements of this outline may be subject to change. The latest information about the course will be available for enrolled students in Canvas.

In this course students may be asked to submit coursework assessments digitally. The University reserves the right to conduct scheduled tests and examinations for this course online or through the use of computers or other electronic devices. Where tests or examinations are conducted online remote invigilation arrangements may be used. In exceptional circumstances changes to elements of this course may be necessary at short notice. Students enrolled in this course will be informed of any such changes and the reasons for them, as soon as possible, through Canvas.