Dangerous industries can teach healthcare


A collection of papers on what healthcare organizations can learn from industries that are inherently dangerous and which implement high reliability practices will be published at ASHRM the annual conference and exhibition of the American Society for Healthcare Risk Management in Austin, Texas, from October 27 to 30

The papers are being published by Datix, a supplier of software for patient safety, risk management, incident and adverse event reporting. They have been written by Dr. Dan Cohen, international medical director at Datix, whose long medical career latterly included the role of chief medical officer and executive medical director for the United States Department of Defense TRICARE Health Plan.

Cohen’s department was responsible for the purchase of healthcare services for over nine million people worldwide.

“The healthcare industry is defined by continuous change. Emerging technologies provide great promise for advancing diagnostic and therapeutic options, although there is a liability that the increasing number and complexity of healthcare treatments raises the risk of active or latent system failures that possibly harm patients,” said Cohen.

“This collection of papers, which includes several personal experiences, is designed to focus on the conundrum of achieving high reliability in healthcare and the challenges that hamper progress towards that goal.”

High Reliability Organizations are those that function in hazardous industries, for example aviation, aerospace, defence, mining and nuclear power. Such organizations have established cultures and supporting processes designed to dramatically reduce the likelihood of human error and harm.

High Reliability Organizations recognize that in the interactions between humans and technologies it is the humans that represent the most substantial sources of risk.

Cohen continued, “The topics covered include overcoming complacency; the importance of trust; reliance and listening to people and how near misses are the gold dust of patient safety.

The booklet concludes with my thoughts on comparisons between High Reliability Organizations and the lessons learned from the recently published report by the National Advisory Group on the Safety of Patients in England, led by Don Berwick.


ASHRM, high reliability, Datix, Dan Cohen