​​​Corporate medicine is one example of this common mismatch.

Medical errors are a devastating problem. The problem is so acute, in fact,

10% of all US deaths in 2016 were due to medical errors (British Medical Journal, May 3,

2016). The good news is that hospitals take medical very errors seriously and spend

a great deal of money to attempt to remedy the issue. 

Most hospitals seek out aviation consultants to solve their unabated medical error problem. 


Simple; there were 19 fatal aviation accidents in 2016, resulting in 325 deaths - down from 560 in 2015. Given that this next year will see around 3.5 billion air passengers flown, that’s just one death per 10,769,230. That’s an astonishing record of safety.  

At first glance, this paring of aviation consultants with hospitals seems like a perfect match. 

What goes wrong? 

First, outside procedural experts apply the fixes they know in their own industry. In this case, aviation consultants attempt to further systematize medical communication. 

The problem? 85 % of airline fatalities are the result of communication issues just like most medical errors. In other words, airlines accidents rarely happen, but when they do, they are caused by the same root cause as medical errors: communication and an organizational cultural model. 

The second factor is a surprising loop. Aviation consultants are so commonly called on to fix medicine that they are generally very familiar with medicine but only the processes and systems of medicine, not the unique culture of each hospital.

Perhaps medicine needs to build a different culture of communication and fine tune procedures? 

Perhaps airline companies need to be closer attention to the root causes of medical errors?

Again: too outside to be in, and too in to be outside.


CASE STUDY: how companies and consultants can get it wrong