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Medical Malpractice and Airline Safety

A senior health care official with the Obama administration believes that the medical field has something to learn from the aviation industry in terms of safety. By focusing on safety and efficiency, he believes that medical malpractice can be drastically reduced while simultaneously controlling the spiraling costs of health care.

Too much care can be as much of a problem as too little care at a hospital. Unnecessary procedures and overmedication can threaten the health and safety of a patient as easily as a lack of proper care. One problem commonly seen at hospitals is doctors and nurses making important decisions while facing significant distraction. One hospital solved that problem by creating a quiet zone where medication orders are placed. The system was designed after an aviation practice that banned nonessential conversation during periods that require the crew's full attention.

Hospitals may be right to look to the aviation industry to reduce the number of mistakes made by health care professionals. One study conducted by the government found that Medicare patients stand a one in seven chance of being harmed during their stay in a hospital. If one in seven airline passengers suffered an injury, the commercial aviation industry would collapse.

The standards of safety accepted at most hospitals would not be tolerated in most industries. By analyzing the innovations pioneered in other fields, the medical industry could reduce costs, save lives and serve their patients' needs properly.

Source: Chicago Tribune, "Focus: Health care. Safety, efficiency gains can help more patients, save money too," Noam N. Levey, 5 October 2011

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