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Medicine looks to industries for inspiration

Connected coverage — selected articles on trends, challenges and controversies in the changing world of medicine.

Posted April 22, 2013

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When physicians, hospitals and health systems encounter systemic problems that might lead to inefficient or substandard patient care, they don't always look within to find solutions. In some cases, the ways that nonmedical industries have changed their practices to boost quality, safety or efficiency can provide valuable examples that doctors and other health professionals can adapt to their own situations.

American Medical News has shed light on several instances in which the medical system has borrowed expertise and best practices developed by experts in other occupations that at first glance might appear to be completely unrelated. It might come as a surprise that the lessons learned by professionals overseeing car assembly lines, racing vehicle pit lanes and airplane cockpits can be used to improve medical care. Although they are not perfect analogies, champions of the approaches say the evidence is clear that adapting these solutions thoughtfully can save time, money and lives.

Cardiac treatment improves after taking page from Toyota playbook

The use of “lean management” principles, which focus on boosting productivity through reducing variation and waste, helped make the Toyota Motor Corp. the world's largest automobile manufacturer. New research shows that the principles also are working for hospital interventional cardiac care units, where lean management has entailed standardized admission order sets, immediate alerts for cardiac catheterization teams and regular monitoring of clinical procedures.

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Doctors use Formula One pit crews as safety model

Racing pit crews help their drivers shave valuable seconds off their times through precision and near-perfect synchronization, with the overarching goal of keeping everyone at the track safe in the process. Following the crews' example, U.S. and British hospitals use similar elements of team leadership, situational awareness and data checklists to cut down on the rates of potentially harmful errors when handing off surgery patients to recovery settings.

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Patient safety: What can medicine learn from aviation?

Many believe aviation safety principles such as adherence to checklists, crew resource management and anonymous incident reporting hold great potential for adaptation to the field of medicine — and in some ways they already have been adapted. But some experts caution that patients are not airplanes, and attempting to copy aviation's example without applying those skills to a particular process of medical care will not necessarily yield the results that everyone wants.

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