"The Ronan Report" provides insight about the activities at the Western Maryland Health System in Cumberland, Maryland, and about the changes taking place in healthcare today from a CEO's perspective.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Another Health Care Comparison to the Airline Industry

Usually, hospitals are compared to the airline industry from a safety perspective and hospitals are routinely identified as woefully inadequate. The usual quote is that if the airline industry had the same safety standards as hospitals, gazillions of people would be dying in airline crashes each day. I exaggerate, but not by much. One can draw comparisons in some areas, but quite honestly, there are more differences than there are similarities.  

I have never really embraced this industry-to-industry comparison. However, this morning, I read an article by Jonathan Burroughs, entitled, "Six Strategies Hospitals Should Steal from the Airline Industry." It was a different approach, but an interesting one and one from which you could draw similarities. This article was tied to wasteful operations of which the airline industry has worked for decades to improve. The airline industry is far less complex than the health care industry, but there are a few, actually six, takeaways worth considering.

First, we need to master the flow of the entire health care system like air traffic control. We treat far too many aspects separately and not as a whole. I agree with that strategy. Second, airports function 24/7 and so should health care. In response many would say we do. Actually, we don't. We set up far too many aspects of our operations to benefit us rather than the patient. Third, all departures are scheduled in advance. We need to do a much better job in health care of performing effective discharge planning. At WMHS, we have seen a big improvement in d/c planning, but more emphasis is needed. Fourth, all arrivals are scheduled in advance. Some might say that many of our arrivals are unexpected, especially the emergent ones. That's not really the case. We know when the majority of our patients will arrive and when our downtime is with the fewest patients. We can and should plan accordingly. Fifth, flight schedules are smoothed throughout the day and week. Airlines schedule to ensure a consistent schedule. We can similarly manage non-emergent ED patients to a lower level of acuity and take appropriate steps to better receive patients in Surgery and ICU.  Lastly, delayed flights are taken off of main runways and taxiways. In hospitals, delayed discharges, transfers and admissions should be moved to comfortable locations and not tie up needed beds or resources.

By following these six strategies, we would be able to reduce cost, improve outcomes and be better positioned for health care reform. We should go to school, if you will, whenever we can bring improvement to the care delivery model in hospitals.........our future depends on it.

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