Hospitals look to auto racing to improve safety

What do auto-racing pit crews and medical workers have in common? Apparently a lot more than you'd think, given that hospitals throughout the U.S. and all over the world are looking to Formula One crews to improve their precision under duress, according to a study published earlier this summer in the British medical journal Quality and Safety in Health Care, reports American Medical News

The study specifically looks at the manner in which F1 crews used checklists and databases during pit stops in comparison to patient handovers, lead author Dr. Ken Catchpole of the Nuffield Department of Surgical Sciences at the University of Oxford told amednews. F1 pit crews, according to the article, can change all four tires and refuel a car in seven seconds; no Grand Prix driver has died during a race since 1994. 

"There is lots of individual variation that creeps into [medical processes]," Catchpole said. "Sometimes that's good, and it's responsive to individual patients. But often, that creates these uncertainties that increase the opportunities for errors to happen." 

In 2007, Catchpole conducted a similar study in which surgical teams watched video of pit crews in action, then applied what they saw in the operating room, ultimately cutting technical errors by two-thirds. In this more recent study, F1 technical managers for nine separate teams gave their input to hospital clinical staff members who aided in handing patients over from surgery to recovery and intensive care units. 

Dr. Peter Laussen, chief of the division of cardiovascular care at Children's Hospital Boston, began utilizing the "pit crew approach" to care in 2008. Since then, he told amednews, post-surgical processes are much more formulaic and, as a result, safer. 

"Now we have a system for when the patient comes out of the operating room, and it happens every time without deviation," Laussen said. "[I]t's an absolute expectation now, built within the culture of this place, that that's how it's going to happen." 

To learn more:
- read this American Medical News article
- here's the Quality and Safety in Healthcare abstract
- check out the abstract from the 2007 study