The Center for Research and Innovation in Systems Safety (CRISS) conducts basic and applied research in healthcare informatics, patient safety and clinical quality, and designs and evaluates informatics user interfaces, care processes and medical technology across Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

Directed by Matthew B. Weinger, M.D., CRISS is highly interdisciplinary and collaborative with projects spanning numerous clinical domains (from the Medical Home to the operating room) and disciplines (medicine, nursing, and pharmacy). Using a range of human factors and systems engineering, cognitive psychology, biomedical informatics, and implementation science techniques, CRISS studies performance during patient care and in realistic simulations to better understand how and why care deviates from optimal. Interventions are then designed and evaluated to improve the safety and quality of care. CRISS is actively involved in improving the user interfaces of Vanderbilt’s custom clinical information systems, evaluating and redesigning processes and tools to enhance patient safety and quality care, as well as furnishing graphic design services for research and clinical endeavors.

Starting in 2022, CRISS is pleased to announce a formal collaboration agreement with the Hospital virtual Valdecilla (HvV) in Santander, Cantabria, Spain. HvV is a simulation, patient safety, and human factors research and education center affiliated with the government of Cantabria, the Marqués de Valdecilla University Hospital, and the University of Cantabria.

The goals of this collaboration include:

  1. Promote the knowledge and skill development of both institutions’ personnel in human factors, patient safety, and systems science with an initial focus on Human Factors approaches to care process improvement, adverse event detection and analysis, and advanced approaches for clinical training.
  2. Improve Human Factors tools and methods to conduct research at HvV on process improvement and patient safety.
  3. Develop strategies for research projects and programs that are of joint interest.
  4. Host several VUMC faculty at HvV in 2022-23 and at least one HvV faculty at VUMC in 2023-24 to strengthen the ties between our two organizations.


CRISS investigators are particularly interested in designing and evaluating medical technologies (i.e., devices and information systems) with an emphasis on the effects of the introduction of new technologies on clinical care and the use of electronically generated clinical data to identify evolving events and support decision-making. CRISS provides FDA- and ONC-compliant user-centered design (UCD) services, including usability testing, for external customers. We also conduct studies to understand the causes of unexpected clinical events and how such events might be prevented.

At the conceptual level, CRISS scientists are interested in the nature of expertise, clinician-clinician communication, novel methods of information presentation, the workload and stress of individual clinicians and of teams, situational awareness, and various other intrinsic and extrinsic variables that affect performance during routine and non-routine clinical care. CRISS investigators are also interested in team communication, coordination, culture and effectiveness, human-technology interactions, adaptive problem solving, as well as individual and group performance-shaping factors, to generate practical benefits in terms of improved clinical care processes and outcomes.


Because of increasing scope and impact outside the operating room and across multiple healthcare domains, the Center for Perioperative Research in Quality (CPRQ), founded in 2005, was renamed in October 2010 to be the Center for Research and Innovation in Systems Safety. CRISS remains located within the Department of Anesthesiology, and is an integral part of Vanderbilt’s Institute for Medicine and Public Health (IMPH), lead by Dr. Robert Dittus. CRISS is an institution-wide resource for human factors and systems design and improvement in healthcare. The Center also subsumed the functions of Vanderbilt’s Center for Improving Patient Safety (CIPS).