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Health Care Leaders Gather to Gain New Safety, Risk Management Insights From Aviation Industry Experts

LANSING, Mich., June 2 /PRNewswire/ -- As health care organizations continue to wrestle with better ways to improve patient safety and communications, they are finding inspiration from the skies - the aviation industry.

While patient care and airlines may seem worlds apart, aviation industry techniques in health care was the focus of a recent national risk management and patient safety conference hosted by The Risk Management and Patient Safety Institute (RM&PSI).

The April conference, titled On the Wings to Patient Safety: Innovative Solutions and Tools, featured two days of seminars hosted by experts in both aviation and health care.

"Aviation has a lot it can teach the health care risk management and patient safety community," said Karol Wareck, group vice president of The RM&PSI. "Health care has grown extremely fast in the last 50 years in terms of technology, access and information - but safety has not always kept pace with the growth. We know the experience of aviation offers some important parallels and critical lessons in terms of what they have done to reduce risk during their own exponential growth."

As commercial aviation was getting off the ground and into the mainstream in the 1950s, health care delivery was relatively low-tech. Other than penicillin and a handful of other medicines and herbal supplements, there were very few manufactured pharmaceuticals. There were also very few clinical specialists, limited surgical options and no pure health insurance companies.

At the same time, aviation was booming. As the number of passengers and planes in the skies grew, safety became a driving force behind innovation and process change. As a result, commercial flight is one of the safest modes of transportation today.

Wareck points to a number of key variables affecting medicine and patient safety today that didn't exist decades ago, including: increased specialization among physicians; the proliferation of medication and, with it, more potential for adverse reactions; major technological advances; and the rise of the third-party payer, beginning with the creation of Medicaid in 1965.

The RM&PSI conference featured a number of leading voices who shared their insights into important patient safety issues and techniques, including veteran NASA astronaut and national patient safety expert Dr. James Bagian, and Steven J. Hopson, the first deaf pilot to become instrument-rated.

One of the most important parallels for health care from aviation is the use of simulation and ongoing training. Experts note that simulation is one of the best tools available to improve safety and the delivery of care, but it still rarely employed by today's health care institutions.

Another proven technique is the concept of "high-reliability understanding" - knowing the "why" of human mistakes.

The similarities across both industries are clear: pilots and residents/physicians are both required to work long hours, performing complex tasks with limited sleep and breaks. Another factor is communication within the hierarchal structure that is modern medicine. In health care, "hand-offs" in communication can lead to errors. Aviation faced similar issues in its early years, but worked to flatten organizations and implement closed-loop communication principals, to the point where even a subordinate can direct a leader on what to do.

The aviation industry created its systems with safety at the forefront, implementing fail-safes and stop-gaps that don't depend on human memory. Most importantly, they've stopped the "blame game," and instead examine how the systems in place are enabling mistakes.

Wareck believes health care can do the same. "Change on this level is never easy, but we are seeing more health care leaders engage in this discussion and embrace new safety processes as priorities," said Wareck. "We know it can be done and must now work to become the model for industries in the future."

The Risk Management and Patient Safety Institute annual conference was held this year on April 21-22 on at the MGM Grand Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas. Additional information on patient safety and aviation can be obtained by visiting the Institute's Web site,

About The RM&PSI

The Risk Management and Patient Safety Institute (RM&PSI), a subsidiary of FinCor Holdings Inc., is a national leader in risk management and patient safety programs and regulatory readiness practices for health care institutions. For more information, go to

About FinCor Holdings

FinCor Holdings Inc. ( ) is a Lansing, Mich.-based integrated risk management company focused on meeting the risk financing, risk transfer and clinical risk management needs of today's health care providers. FinCor Holdings and its subsidiaries - FinCor Solutions, The Risk Management and Patient Safety Institute, MHA Insurance Company, Washington Casualty Company and Capital Risk Solutions - provide industry-leading products and support services, including medical professional liability insurance, alternative risk programs, workers' compensation and risk management solutions.

For more information, visit

SOURCE FinCor Holdings Inc.
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