Human Factors in medicine: Lessons from aviation

Aviation safety has evolved over more than a century and has achieved remarkable results. Applying some of the lessons learned may help healthcare (especially surgery and anesthesia) safer.

Although many of the ingredients for safe operation are frequently already present in our hospitals, and some individual clinical areas and departments achieve high levels of reliability and safety, we firmly believe that we cannot expect improvements in Human Factors training and awareness to be fully effective in the healthcare setting without the parallel development of a simple and strong safety system across organizations.

CRM training has been adopted by a number of other professions including the offshore oil industry and the nuclear power industry amongst others. Accident analysis from many industries reveals that Human Factors appear to dominate the risks inherent in complex installations.

In the training process, we may nevertheless find that the safe hospital turns out somewhat differently to the safe airline.

For further details of the evolution of CRM training to include Threat and Error Management (T.E.M.) training in aviation, and de facto in medicine, please see our Aviation section.