5 things healthcare can learn from the airline industry

If an airplane crashes due to technical failures, 250 people may lose their lives at once. It rarely happens. In healthcare, 250 patients die each day only in the USA due to medical errors. Why the difference in safety precautions?

In an environment where safety issues must be a priority, the consequences of a broken system are often severe. When you board an airplane, everyone accepts if the technicians have to double check the aircraft in order to avoid a disaster – no matter how long it takes. So how come we don’t have the same mindset on safety in healthcare, where patients all over the world lose their lives due to medical errors? Is it because of stress and work overload, or something else?

Here are a few examples that might give an explanation: It’s clear that the airline industry has been very successful in establishing a safety culture, where staff is encouraged to report things that may adventure both on- and off board safety. In healthcare it’s quite the opposite – employees hesitate to report system flaws and hospitals are not transparent to society. Also, in the airline industry, the aircraft manufacturers take great responsibility, while medical companies simply work as suppliers.

The comparisons are many, but let’s narrow it down to 5 things healthcare can learn from the airline industry:

  1. Pharmaceutical companies must take responsibility, charge and control all the way down to the patient, just like aircraft manufacturers take safety precautions for each and every flight.
  2. Hospital management must encourage their staff to report when things go wrong and make it a natural part of their routine. Also, the consequences of medical errors must have effect.
  3. The knowledge that things can go wrong must be given to the patient. Many people feel much safer at hospitals than in airplanes, even though medical errors are much more common than plane crashes. There are certainly reasons to be cautious and to ask questions.
  4. Technical security must be established in the chain of care. By doing so, safety increases – both staff and patients feel safer before “take-off”.
  5. In some healthcare areas, such as radiotherapy, patients are much more aware of the risks. This has also put the pressure on hospitals to establish special safety regulations in these particular areas. There’s no reason why it can’t also be done with intravenous medication. Just like the technicians that keep us safe in the air, a safety manager should be given the mandate to control the medication before it’s given to the patient.

Double checking an airplane demands patience. Our safety device DrugLog® enhances patient safety in just a few seconds. What are your thoughts on this topic? Feel free to contact us or continue the discussion on our Facebook and LinkedIn pages.

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