Healthcare News & Insights

Aviation practices can improve patient safety?

Think hospitals can learn a thing or two from the aviation industry?

This group of innovators thinks so, especially when it comes to improving patient safety.

They believe in it so much, they’ve published a report called “An NTSB for Health Care – Learning from Innovation: Debate and Innovate or Capitulate.”

The authors of the report all have experience as pilots and relevant personal stories. Two of them also happen to be celebrities: actor Denis Quaid , whose 12-day-old twins were nearly killed by a medical error when they received an overdose of heparin in a Los Angeles hospital, and US Airways pilot Chelsey “Sully” Sullenberger, who landed Flight 1549 on the Hudson River.

The message they’re trying to get across is the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has made great strides with safety improvements in the aviation industry. And many of the safety and error-prevention strategies used in aviation are applicable to the healthcare industry.

Here are some of the specific policies, procedures and technologies cited in the report as being helpful and applicable to the healthcare industry:

  • Behavior-based, values-grounded hiring methods have produced amazing results in both airlines and hospitals. This means interviewing the employee, asking questions about how he or she acted in the past, instead of how they would act in a hypothetical situation. This is the best way to discover a potential employee’s skills, experience and values.
    When these behavior-based methods are implemented in the hiring process, turnover is reduced and safety is improved. Reason: when an employee is hired with the necessary skills and values, there’s less turnover, which leads to improved safety.
  • The NTSB was an independent agency developed by Congress to investigate all significant transportation accidents to prevent re-occurrence. Through reports this organization issues, pilots learn about accidents that have occurred and how to avoid the same events. An NTSB-like organization for health care could greatly improve healthcare safety at a low cost and great benefit. This organization would issue similar reports and provide a disciplined, systemic approach to health care in order to prevent accidents and near-misses. All identifying information would be stripped from the reports.
  • Greater use of technology needs to be implemented in hospitals. Aviators use real-time analytics to gather weather information, view maps of the scenarios and analyze aircraft trajectory. Performance models and standardized “simulator patients” can serve as great tools for reducing harm in hospitals.

Some healthcare experts, however, feel implementing an NTSB-like organization in the healthcare industry would be just another layer of bureaucracy and red tape for hospitals.

What do you think?



Subscribe Today

Get the latest and greatest healthcare news and insights delivered to your inbox.