Saturday, 8 May 2010

Doctor vs. Pilot

Before I write the rest of this post, this seems to be popular around the web right now,, (sound gets better after a few seconds) watch it and then try telling me that Sky News isn't an absolute joke. It gets a little more like Fox with every passing day.

I should also start by apologising if I don't write as often in the weeks coming up, I've got exams soon which will squeeze my time but I'll try and write as often as I can, if for nothing else than to give me a break from work.

Anyway, back to the actual point of this post. I was reading BMJ on the train back to Manchester today (anything to pass time) and it was saying about how hospitals are taking advice from airline companies on how they can improve safety and get lower mortality rates. At first it might seem a bit strange that medicine and flying would have anything to do with each other but apparently this has been happening for years, and with good results.

The problem was that in medicine a mistake can often lead to death, obviously not a favourable result, and that mistakes were blamed solely on the individual. If you blame mistakes on the individual then you have to assume that there's very little difference you can make by changing any kind of system.

Airlines also had the problem that mistakes could lead to large numbers of deaths in certain circumstances, and anything that could be done to change it would be done as fast as possible. Unlike medicine though, they realised that changing the system and making it harder for mistakes to happen meant that individuals were less likely to make them. So checklists and drills and all sorts of stuff was introduced to reduce mistakes, and it worked, it worked spectacularly well.

That's when doctors took notice and started making checklists of their own. Hospitals introduced airline style checklists for care, different chronic conditions and for before surgery. They all worked and helped make hospital visits considerably safer. This has all been done in the last 10 years or so.

Maybe the lesson is, when you see a mistake, don't just ask who made it, but ask why were they able to make it and what could be done to make it harder for them to repeat it in the future.

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