Lessons learned from aviation: Making medicine safer

TUM education program on patient safety

The Technical University of Munich (TUM), university hospital TUM Klinikum rechts der Isar, Klinikum St. Elisabeth Straubing hospital and Lufthansa Aviation Training have joined forces to develop an innovative certificate program in the field of patient safety. The program transfers methods from high-reliability organizations such as aviation to medical practice. The objective is to increase the safety of patients in medical facilities and better train medical personnel to handle risk situations.

The great significance and attention awarded the topic of patient safety has grown enormously in Germany, especially during the Corona crisis. At the same time procedures at medical facilities are becoming more and more complex; expert staff and management is constantly called on to deal with challenging situations. Even small staff or technology errors or minor flaws in processes can have sweeping consequences. As a result, the safety of patients is taking on more and more importance for hospitals and public authorities. The certificate program "Fokus Patientensicherheit" (Focus on Patient Safety) offered at the Technical University of Munich’s Institute for LifeLong Learning is intended to train medical specialists in proactive risk management and to increase the safety of patients at German medical facilities. The program follows the example set by what are referred to as high-reliability organizations such as aviation.

"If we want to bring about real change, we have to connect the latest scientific findings with medical practice. At the same time we want to promote out-of-the-box thinking in order to develop new solution strategies for the day-to-day challenges faced by healthcare professionals," says Claudia Peus, TUM’s Senior Vice President for Talent Management and Diversity as well as Founding Director of the TUM Institute for LifeLong Learning. "We have succeeded for the first time in linking all these aspects in the certificate program. Experienced partners will contribute their strong expertise to create the overall structure represented by the patient-safety certificate ’Fokus Patientensicherheit’."

Markus Schwaiger, Medical Director and CEO at the TUM Klinikum rechts der Isar, adds: "Medical processes are constantly growing in complexity and therefore require increasingly interdisciplinary and inter-professional communication. This puts human behavior at the center of risk management for the optimization of patient safety."

Dr. Christoph Scheu, CEO of Klinikum St. Elisabeth Straubing hospital, points to the relevance of patient safety: "In the USA approximately one-quarter million people die annually due to medical error. No exact figures are available for Germany, but proportional to population this would be equivalent to 60,000 deaths in Germany - a shockingly high figure. We want to work together to further increase patient safety in medical facilities."

"Aviation is one of the safest systems worldwide, characterized by continuous preparation for unforeseeable, critical events," says Martin Egerth, Process Manager Beyond Aviation at Lufthansa Aviation Training. "We are pleased to transfer this expertise to medical situations in the new certificate program. Every hospital can apply the methods and a focus on the human factor to become a ’High-Reliability Organization’ of the type familiar from aviation."

The content of the continuing education program includes solution strategies for safety in health care services. Experienced instructors from medical, aviation and risk management fields will present among other things successful concepts from aviation sector "Human Factors Training" and will transfer these concepts to clinically relevant situations found in participants’ working environments. Simulation training will show participants how good communication can still succeed and teams can still work together constructively even under difficult conditions.


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