Airlines, Airplanes, Airports and Hospitals

For whatever reason, I’ve read/heard several instances recently of people referring to the hospital and airlines/airplanes/airports/pilots metaphor.

To the best of my Google research, Donald Berwick and Lucian Leape started the trend, in an article published in 1999, by using the safety records of airlines to bring attention to high medical error rates in hospitals.

In the last few days I have seen pilot/doctor comparisons, hospital and airplane capacity comparisons related to financial issues, regulation comparisons of flying and doctoring…

Raise your hand if you have warm feelings toward airlines. Seeing none…

Type “hate airlines” into Google. Spend eight hours in airports to take a two-hour flight. Nickel-and-dime pricing. Canceled flights. Lost luggage. Waiting for hours on the runway. Some of these problems have arisen out of necessary circumstance—that isn’t the argument I want to make here. Believe me because I know, I’ve spent some time working in the airline industry.

The argument I do want to make is this: If we continue to connect hospitals with airlines to explain things, my fear is that patients are going to make the connection themselves, and I’m afraid those connections won’t always (if ever?) be positive. While the comparison may be useful, we should temper its use.