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Diffusing Aviation Innovations in a Hospital in the Netherlands

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Background: Many authors have advocated the diffusion of innovations from other high-risk industries into health care to improve safety. The aviation industry is comparable to health care because of its similarities in (a) the use of technology, (b) the requirement of highly specialized professional teams, and (c) the existence of risk and uncertainties. For almost 20 years, The Rotterdam Eye Hospital (Rotterdam, the Netherlands) has been engaged in diffusing several innovations adapted from aviation.

Methods: A case-study methodology was used to assess the application of innovations in the hospital, with a focus on the context and the detailed mechanism for each innovation. Data on hospital performance outcomes were abstracted from the hospital information data management system, quality and safety reports, and the incident reporting system. Information on the innovations was obtained from a document search; observations; and semistructured, face-to-face interviews.

Innovations: Aviation industry–based innovations diffused into patient care processes were as follows: patient planning and booking system, taxi service/valet parking, risk analysis (as applied to wrong-site surgery), time-out procedure (also for wrong-site surgery), Crew Resource Management training, and black box. Observations indicated that the innovations had a positive effect on quality and safety in the hospital: Waiting times were reduced, work processes became more standardized, the number of wrong-site surgeries decreased, and awareness of patient safety was heightened.

Conclusion: A near-20-year experience with aviation-based innovation suggests that hospitals start with relatively simple innovations and use a systematic approach toward the goal of improving safety.

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: August 1, 2010

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  • Published monthly, The Joint Commission Journal on Quality and Patient Safety is a peer-reviewed publication dedicated to providing health professionals with the information they need to promote the quality and safety of health care. The Joint Commission Journal on Quality and Patient Safety invites original manuscripts on the development, adaptation, and/or implementation of innovative thinking, strategies, and practices in improving quality and safety in health care. Case studies, program or project reports, reports of new methodologies or new applications of methodologies, research studies on the effectiveness of improvement interventions, and commentaries on issues and practices are all considered.

    David W. Baker, MD, MPH, FACP, executive vice president for the Division of Healthcare Quality Evaluation at The Joint Commission, is the inaugural editor-in-chief of The Joint Commission Journal on Quality and Patient Safety.

    Also known as Joint Commission Journal on Quality Improvement and Joint Commission Journal on Quality and Safety
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