Case Study

Deaths during surgery can be reduced by applying aviation safety principles

Social development Safety

The safety credentials of the aviation industry are widely known, with an extraordinarily detailed approach being adopted on a day-to-day basis by operators throughout the world. Due to the success of these coordinated procedures, many other sectors have begun to adopt similar methods as a means of improving their own safety standards. A prime example of this would be the health sector, which for obvious reasons has a heavy interest in safety measures.

Recent research into the use of aviation-style safety checks in hospitals have shown that great gains can made once they have been implemented. Deaths in hospitals as a result of surgical mistakes can be cut by up to 47% if the kind of pre-flight check-lists routinely used by pilots are introduced into surgeries, according to Professor Gwanda of the Harvard School of Public Health.

Writing in the UK newspaper, The Times, in November 2014, Professor Gwanda revealed that the checklist had been tested in eight cities around the work and that the average reduction in deaths was 47%.

Professor Gwanda has been working with the World Health Organization (WHO) the past few years to research how deaths in surgery can be reduced.  His findings suggests that by following the some kind of simple checklists that pilots around the world go through before every flight, such as confirming that everyone on the team knows each other’s’ name and role, relatively basic mistakes can be swiftly cut out. The research has now been adopted into a global programme of clinical care procedures, which WHO want to see rolled out across the world.

WHO has said that the aviation checklist has the same potential to save lives and prevent morbidity in medicine that it did in aviation over 70 years ago by ensuring that simple standards are applied for every patient, every time.