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Healthcare Can Learn From the Aviation Industry About Safety
Wednesday, September 27, 2017
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Patient safety has always been a major issue in healthcare, and the call for more concrete solutions became louder after medical errors were cited to be the third leading cause of death (if it were to be included in the list of reasons for patient mortality). According to AHRQ's research report, Patient Safety Initiative: Building Foundations , medical error reports state that among several reasons for mistakes in care provision, failures in communication tops the list. Digging deeper down the list, you can discover other causes of errors, such as lack or disrupted flow of information, deficiencies in employee education and training, problematic work flows, and inadequate policies and procedures regarding patient safety.

To address medical errors alone, healthcare would need a major overhaul. Looking into how other industries handle safety issues, the healthcare sector, which is supposed to be the primary champion of safety, is trailing far behind aviation, military, and nuclear power plants. Healthcare is not even remotely close to decreasing errors as well as these industries.

The aviation industry is an excellent blueprint for addressing safety concerns, and it offers invaluable lessons all healthcare organizations can draw from. The airline industry has considerably improved their safety protocols, resulting in significantly decreased passenger mortality despite flying being inherently dangerous, and the number of flights doubling worldwide. Obviously, aviation is doing something right, and we in healthcare need to be active on the learning end if we are really bent on finding solutions to curb patient safety issues.

Many may argue that healthcare work flows and practitioners differ greatly from those in aviation, so research in airline safety cannot be entirely applied to healthcare. But the point is not to take the entirety of it, but to establish an excellent foundation and a starting point from which solutions can be developed.

Lessons to Learn From the Aviation Industry: Crew Resource Management (CRM) and Training

CRM in aviation has addressed major issues in passenger safety. Their solution largely involves communication and teamwork, as well as situational awareness, problem solving, and decision making. Ask any clinician and they would undoubtedly say these are the same things that we currently need to improve in healthcare. Zeroing in on only two aspects of CRM—communication and teamwork—we see that there is a pressing need for a more simplified but efficient collaboration platform that draws learning points from aviation. This platform must be able to bridge process and workflow gaps brought about the hypercomplexity of tasks that perplex the healthcare system. In essence, it is about closing in on perfection while operating in a hypercomplex work environment.

What are the qualities of communication and teamwork strategies in aviation that made their flights so safe? They have an efficient system that enables inquiry and feedback traversing all levels of the hierarchy, transparent and closed-loop. Analyzing it further, these are the same deficient factors in communication that led to medical errors in healthcare.

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Other than CRM, training is an equally important aspect of safety. In the airline industry, the pilot’s training is very rigorous and regimented, with many years of simulations, even in teamwork and debriefing. They undergo proficiency evaluations every six months. They train so well that at the slightest smell of trouble, the team is automatically on it full force. They also successfully benefited from breaking down training into core competencies with well-established protocols and were able to change workplace culture to get to the root of it. A combination of these strategies has significantly improved safety and customer satisfaction in aviation.

Comparatively, in healthcare, failures in knowledge transfer, especially in onboarding or recruitment of temporary workers, as well as lack of provider training, contributed to medical errors. The lessons that aviation offers can address the same matters.

The Bottom Line

Human factors that constitute aspects of safety in healthcare need massive improvement. ManageUp understands that to practice in a culture of safety, communication, and training in teams are a must, so we designed a platform using the aviation's safety blueprint and took perspective from managers who are in oversight positions. We now present our solutions as powerful tools that health teams have been clamoring for to improve the safety culture in healthcare organizations.

Our collaboration platform is further customized to meet communication needs of organizations that are unique to healthcare alone. ManageUp gives users a role-based dashboard where collaboration can take place with clarity, feedback, and transparency so that medical errors can be substantially minimized. Moreover, the dashboard has additional important features that enable users to access work flows and track other collaborative communication. When it comes to training, one module is exclusively dedicated to knowledge transfer using a set of training procedures. This training program allows users to be self-reliant in honing the core competencies of safety.

Now we are taking our solutions one step further to the next level by leveraging the artificial intelligence and virtual reality technology from Psious, a provider of deep experiential continuous training, for employee training and patient education. Together, we push improvements in healthcare by focusing on collaboration and training, to prevent medical errors and to consequently improve patient outcomes.

Want to Learn More?

Join me at the ATD 2017 Healthcare Summit for the session: Using Virtual and Augmented Reality to Unleash Your Team's Talent. We will explore how artificial intelligence can benefit your team by raising team members’ emotional intelligence, increasing safety, and contributing to a better patient experience while reducing administrative burdens. In this session, you will experience virtual reality training and automatization of work flow. 

Additional Reading

About the Author
Greg Hunter is co-founder and chief product officer for ManageUp and a former national track champion.
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