A former transportation official has some valuable insights into reforming healthcare – though I’m not sure whether I agree with what he proposes.
Jim Hall served as chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) from 1994 to 2001. He is currently managing partner in a healthcare and safety consulting firm.
Because American medicine accepts error as an inevitable consequence of treatment, our hospitals, insurers and government do little to respond to unnecessary deaths. If we are to address the problem in a serious manner, we must first change this culture.
What we need, he argues, is a healthcare equivalent of the NTSB.
As a former chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board, I am familiar with the deadly consequences of human error. However, because that agency views every transportation death as a preventable occurrence, our roads, rails and skies enjoy an unparalleled level of safety. After any significant accident, the board undertakes an extensive investigation, and makes recommendations to the parties involved to ensure that such an accident never recurs. While the transportation safety board has no regulatory authority, its recommendations are viewed by the industry and the public as unbiased and therefore credible, and federal regulators usually act with haste to address them.
Such an investigative body could substantially improve the safety of medicine in the
I agree with Hall’s view of the cultural problem in healthcare. We need a lean mindset where mistakes are viewed not as inevitable, but as the result of process flaws that can be corrected.
However, I’m not sure I agree with his solution. I tend to be skeptical of proposals for new government regulation, though there is logic to his argument. And I’m not sure how his proposed board would work in the maze of federal and state regulations currently governing healthcare.
Do you agree or disagree?