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Lessons From Flight Crews Can Help Surgical Teams Work Better
Date:10/19/2010

By Jenifer Goodwin
HealthDay Reporter

TUESDAY, Oct. 19 (HealthDay News) -- Surgical death rates might be reduced if operating room staff borrowed team-building procedures used by the airline industry, a new study suggests.

A program that trained operating room workers to talk about potential challenges before surgeries, to use checklists and to review what went right or wrong after surgeries significantly reduced the surgical death rate at participating hospitals, the study says.

In the study, researchers analyzed data on more than 182,000 patients who had undergone surgery at 108 Veterans Health Administration hospitals between 2006 and 2008. Of those hospitals, 74 had implemented the Medical Team Training program, using error-reducing techniques borrowed from the aviation industry and NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration).

After one year, deaths at facilities that had implemented the training program fell by 18 percent, compared to 7 percent at hospitals that had not yet gone through the training.

The decline in the annual surgical mortality rate was almost 50 percent greater at trained hospitals than un-trained hospitals, the team noted.

"The ultimate goal is to have good teamwork and communication to reduce adverse events," said senior study author Dr. James Bagian, a former astronaut who is now the chief patient safety and systems innovation officer for the University of Michigan Health System. "This study shows we had some success. The longer the facility did the program, the greater the improvement in mortality."

The study is in the Oct. 20 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Surgical errors remain a major concern in American hospitals. In fact, a study published Monday in the Archives of Surgery found that egregious and devastating errors - operating on the wrong patient or the wrong body site - still occur. Many of the
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