Healthcare can learn from high reliability organizations


The healthcare industry could benefit by adopting safety strategies used in High Reliability Organizations (HROs) but will always be set apart from other high risk industries by the human element involved in healthcare.

That is the view of Dr Dan Cohen, International Medical Director of Datix, writing in the latest edition of Healthcare Risk Management Review.

High Reliability Organizations (HROs) are those that function in industries that are inherently dangerous but have established cultures and supporting processes designed to dramatically reduce the likelihood of human error and harm. 

“HROs recognize that in the interactions between humans and technologies it is the humans that represent the most substantial sources of risk,” said Cohen. “For example, in the aviation industry the airplanes are so well designed with multiply redundant highly engineered systems that the risks arise primarily from the aircrew. Human beings and human factors are the sources of most risk.”

It has been argued that if the healthcare industry were to simply adopt the characteristics and methodologies of other dangerous industries, specifically if it adopted the principles of High Reliability Organizations, it would move the bar for quality and safety higher and would improve outcomes.

“In my view, if the healthcare industry is a forest of complexities then two giant trees set it apart from other high-risk industries. These giant coastal redwoods are (1) the frequency of human to human interactions that results in a knock-on effect on complexity related to inherent challenges in communication and (2) a highly appropriate world view that envisions patients not just as passive recipients of healthcare services (like passengers passively sitting in an airliner) but rather as essential components in a system appropriately focused on sustaining health and achieving optimal healthcare outcomes.”

Read the whole of Dr Cohen’s article in the latest edition of Healthcare Risk Management Review, available now.

High Reliability Organizations, healthcare, Healthcare Risk Management Review, risk management