Applying lessons of airline industry to health care

    Thomas Jefferson University has invited a national expert to Philadelphia to talk about what the health industry can learn from the airline industry.

    Pilot John Nance helped launch the National Patient Safety Foundation.

    Nance, who says simple safety checks and checklists can reduce medical mistakes, says what he really wants is culture change as well as new training for doctors.

    “Who pretended to be omnipotent and infallible, in ‘Star Trek’ terms like Capt. Kirk,” Nance said. “Versus the later ‘Star Trek’ Capt. Jean-Luc Picard who understood, not how to delegate, but how to say, ‘You know, I’m a good captain, but I’m a human being. I can make mistakes, I need a team around me.’ In other words, you need to be able to speak up to me.”

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    Nance says pilots once were groomed to consider themselves infallible, but the airline industry made a shift in order to improve safety.

    More than a decade ago, the Institute of Medicine sounded the alarm about preventable medical mistakes and hospital-acquired infections. But Nance said he’s embarrassed by the lack of progress in patient safety.

    Hospital CEOs largely know what needs to be done, Nance said, but too many grouse about the cost of retraining their workers or implementing the programs that will change the hospital environment. Many hospital executives, Nance said, are focused on improving their patient satisfaction scores through amenities.

    “If you take that to a ludicrous extreme, it’s ‘sorry, Ms. Wilson, that we cut off the wrong hand but how was the food?'” Nance said. “The thing that patients care about is the thing that they came to hospital about, to get better, to get well, to get something solved.”

    Nance will speak Monday at 5 p.m. at Thomas Jefferson University, 1015 Walnut St., 217 Curtis.

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