NSW Management Interns' Blog

Blog posts by NSW Management Interns of the Australasian College of Health Service Management. Views are those of the individual authors and not those of ACHSM or management interns’ host organisations or employers.

Oscar Chaffey
Oscar Chaffey

ACHSM blog

What healthcare can learn from other industries

Author: Edmund Ng

Healthcare is an industry that is continually looking to improve itself, and that’s no surprise. Clinicians, managers, and support staff alike are all faced with numerous issues on a daily basis that might prevent them from doing their job as well as possible; and when that job  ultimately affects patient care, improvement is something worth focusing on.

There are three ways of creating solutions to any problem: use the tools you already have in a different manner; create new tools altogether; or adapt the tools that others are using for your own purposes. Perhaps the most commonly referenced tool that healthcare has appropriated from another industry is that of Lean Manufacturing and the Toyota Production System which focuses on the elimination of waste in order to increase value and efficiency – sound familiar?

The following are examples of practices from other industries that have been or could be transferred to healthcare.

Improvements in Communication:

  • Staff at Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children in London have adapted the “pit stop” techniques of the Ferrari Formula One team to reduce errors 
  • during patient handover between surgery and ICU [1]. The new protocol was shown to reduce clinical/technical errors, errors in transfer of information, and staff perceptions of teamwork. 
  • In the same way that passengers on an aeroplane receive a safety briefing each time they board a flight, Salford Royal has produced a 2.5 minute patient safety briefing that is played on the wards, at the hospital’s main entrance and is available across the hospital computer network [2]. The film addresses eight key steps to ensuring patient safety during their admission including fall avoidance, infection prevention, pressure injuries, medication safety and encouragement to ask clinicians any questions they might have.                                                                                     

Reducing Cost

Health care can learn how to reduce costs by looking to supply chain management from the retail sector [3], in particular by using purchasing volume to achieve lower prices.

Using Technology: 

  • As patient information is increasingly becoming electronic, there is an opportunity to learn from the experiences of the finance/banking sector as it moved through a similar transition decades ago. In particular, banks are able to securely store and manage sensitive customer information, whilst also freely providing customers with access to their own information via mobile devices; this closely mirrors the movement of healthcare towards a patient-centric model.
  • It’s widely accepted that the plethora of data being generated on a daily basis by hospitals and health care more broadly lends itself easily to the application of big data analytics. While IBM has taken this initiative to focus on individual patients using Watson [4], there may be an opportunity to use this information to target services at particular geographical area based on need. This is a model adopted by Sysco, a food service supplier in the United States, who alter their supply chain to match where demand is greatest for their products [5].

Although healthcare is a unique and hugely complex industry, some of its most pressing concerns may have been addressed in other sectors. The challenge lies in having the creativity and wisdom to know what knowledge can be directly transferred, and how and when to modify the solutions to fit the context of healthcare.


  1. Catchpole, K.R., De Leval, M.R., McEwan, A., et al. (2007). Patient handover from surgery to intensive care: using Formula 1 pit-stop and aviation models to improve safety and quality. Pediatric Anesthesia 17(5):470-8.
  2. Haelo (2015). How Salford Royal ‘rolled out’ a patient safety briefing | Haelo. Accessed April 2015 at http://www.haelo.org.uk/2015/02/how-salford-royal-rolled-out-a-patient-safety-briefing/
  3. Agwunobi, J. and London, P.A. (2009). Removing Costs from the Health Care Supply Chain: Lessons from Mass Retail. Health Affairs 28(5):1336-1342.
  4. Friedman, L.F. (2014). IBM’s Watson Supercomputer May Soon Be The Best Doctor In the World | Business Insider. Business Insider Australia. Accessed April 2015 at http://www.businessinsider.com.au/ibms-watson-may-soon-be-the-best-doctor-in-the-world-2014-4
  5. Hazra, T. (2013). Data Analytics: What Healthcare Can Learn From Other Industries. Advance Healthcare Network: Executive Insight. Accessed April 2015 at http://healthcare-executive-insight.advanceweb.com/Features/Articles/Data-Analytics-What-Healthcare-Can-Learn-From-Other-Industries.aspx

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