Hospitals Adopt Aviation Safety Practices To Curb Errors
Several major medical centers in the past five years have hired professional pilots to instruct staff members on aviation safety practices to reduce medical errors in critical care settings, the New York Times reports. According to the Times, "like airplane crashes, the majority of adverse events in health care are the result of human error, particularly failures in communication, leadership and decision-making."
In addition, pilots and physicians both often must "make life-and-death decisions in seconds" and both "tend to be highly skilled, type A personalities, who rely heavily on technology to do their jobs," the Times reports.
The Federal Aviation Administration requires all commercial and military pilots to undergo safety training called Cockpit or Crew Resource Management, in which they learn "to recognize human limitations and the impact of fatigue, to identify and effectively communicate problems, to support and listen to team members, resolve conflicts, develop contingency plans and use all available resources to make decisions," the Times reports. The Institute of Medicine in 2001 recommended similar safety training for health care workers.
The National Academies, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality and the Institute for Healthcare Improvement also recommend such training, as well as the use of pre- and postoperative briefings, checklists, simulated procedures, annual competency reviews and medical error reporting systems.
In the past five years, Vanderbilt University Medical Center, Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, Vassar Brothers Medical Center, the University of Nebraska and the University of Texas Medical Branch have hired pilots to instruct physicians and nurses on aviation safety practices or have implemented the practices.
According to studies published in BMJ, the Journal of the American Medical Association and the Journal of Critical Care, hospitals that implement aviation safety practices have fewer medical malpractice lawsuits and postsurgical infections (Murphy, New York Times, 10/31).