Monday, August 1, 2011

Pilots vs. MDs Analogy: A Different Wrinkle

I've blogged about my feelings that surgeons aren't pilots and patients aren't airplanes and I've discussed the crisis in intensive care units regarding the proliferation of confusing alarms. The constant blare of multiple sounds in the ICU leads to "alarm fatigue" and distracted personnel.

Yesterday, the cockpit voice recording of the last few minutes of Air France Flight 447, which crashed in the Atlantic In June of 2009, was released.

As is true of most of these situations, the transcript reveals the frantic efforts of the crew to correct the situation. There is a question of whether the pilots were at fault or did the plane's systems fail. A very telling comment from the article is the following:

"Air France says the plane overwhelmed properly trained pilots with a blizzard of confusing signals and misled them because of a "trap" caused by erratic warnings."

Sounds familiar. My blog about medical alarms mentions identical problems.

Maybe I was wrong about the lack of similarity of medicine to airlines/pilots. At least in this instance, the two industries may have more in common than I thought.

1 comment:

busysynch mac said...

About a year ago we got new OR monitors, long overdue, I might add, without my input, I might add again. When they were installed, the anesthesiologists were required to be familiarized by a nurse employed by the vendor. We were informed that all the alarms would be enabled in a manner identical to the ICU setup. The result was that the alarms were in constant high dudgeon from the the time they were attached to the patient until an occasional period of calm intraop when no one was prepping or using electro cautery. Luckily the manufacturer came up with a set of OR defaults, but not for several (very noisy) days.
It reminded me of all the manufactured noise at a major league park. I mean, who can concentrate on the game with the music, etc? Maybe I have gotten off topic.

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