Leapfrog President, CEO Leah Binder: 5 lessons healthcare can learn from nuclear power

The healthcare industry and nuclear industry may have little in common at first glance, but the safety protocols and principles of working with nuclear power are not so different than those hospitals can use to keep patients safe, according to a Forbes article authored by Leah Binder, President and CEO of The Leapfrog Group.

To learn more about safety practices used in the nuclear industry, Ms. Binder spoke with Riccardo Chiarelli, senior program manager of the World Association of Nuclear Operators. WANO was created in 1989 in the wake of the nuclear meltdown in Chernobyl, Ukraine, to achieve guidelines for excellence across the industry.

Here are five principles of nuclear safety Mr. Chiarelli believes can be applied to healthcare, as outlined by Ms. Binder.

1. Leaders must be held accountable. The inextricable link between leadership and accountability is critical to maintaining safety. Performing root cause analyses and holding leaders at any and every level of leadership responsible for errors is a must.

2. Emphasize outcomes, not processes. Unlike government surveyors and healthcare accreditation teams, WANO reviewers don't use lengthy checklists of safety processes and systems — they evaluate safety outcomes and encourage organizations to do so as well.

3. Make safety concerns easily reportable. The Chernobyl accident was due, in large part, to employees who did not raise safety concerns for fear of retaliation. To avoid future problems, nuclear operators set protocols to allow employees to report issues and ensure those problems are addressed promptly. These same systems need to be in place in healthcare settings.

4. Minor errors should never be overlooked. Only a small share of system failures or miscommunications are ever actually brought to the attention of hospital leaders or studied for a root cause analysis. That said, hospital leaders need to know there are no isolated incidents.

5. Go beyond compliance and strive for perfection. The goal of WANO is to push the industry far beyond compliance with basic standards toward top-performing excellence. More hospitals should set aggressive goals for excellence, like aiming to get to zero infections or accidents.



More articles on patient safety:
Physician links transparency with patient safety, but overlooks adverse events at own hospital
Using a multi-pronged approach to fix hospital culture and improve patient safety
Joint Commission names Dr. Ronald Wyatt first ever patient safety officer

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