An example to learn from Aviation

Originally posted on 7-13-2010:
In my last post, I discussed how using Aviation as a safety model for Healthcare may have shortcomings.  I was not knocking the way Aviation and the FAA have kept air travel safe. I was questioning whether Healthcare may have relied too much on the model.

This week I'm highlighting an example of a safety initiative by the FAA that Healthcare leaders should look closely at. The FAA recently raised safety concerns when they noticed a spike in incidents in which planes violated minimum separation distances. The rates of the violation went from 2.44 per million flights to 3.28 per million in the last year (you read that right - per million).

I want to highlight the way the FAA is responding to this issue. They are holding a summit with employees, management, and safety experts next month to address this concern. They are also doing their research by "asking every air traffic controller, as well as other employees involved in air traffic operations, to tell them before the meeting what are the biggest safety problems they see. FAA officials are also fanning out to major airlines for meetings with their chief pilots. "  The FAA is going to the pilots and air traffic controllers on the front lines of the issue to come up with solutions to fix the system. On top of that, it is the third time in four years they are holding such a meeting to quickly address a safety concern.

This is the sort of reposes that needs to consistently happen in healthcare.  Some hospitals are already taking similar actions to address their safety issues, but it is still not happening everywhere.  There should be a quick response like this whenever a patient safety concern is raised.  The doctors, nurses, pharmacists, techs, and anyone else on the front lines need to be brought in to help find solutions.  There is no way to understand how the system is breaking down without understanding what the people on the front lines are dealing with.

I also want to point out the use of a reporting system for the controllers to disclose their mistakes.  The FAA receives 250-300 reports a week to spot any trends.  Can you imagine the safety trends we could spot in Healthcare with a similar reporting system?

I really like the final quote of the article: "People come to rely on the equipment and the collision warning systems, and that's bad."