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Aviation's advice for the OR

Statistician Yinong Young-Xu (left) helped psychologist Peter Mills and others study the Medical Team Training approach.

Like flying an airplane, "surgery is this incredible orchestration," says Peter Mills, Ph.D., an adjunct associate professor of psychiatry at Dartmouth. "All these things have to unfold and be perfect for things to go well." For years, many quality improvement experts in health care have been encouraging hospitals to adopt the communication strategies common in aviation. Mills and his colleagues at the Dartmouth-affiliated VA National Center for Patient Safety field office in White River Junction, Vt., are the first group in the country to do that on a large scale.

From 2006 to 2010, the operating room staffs at 121 Veterans Affairs hospitals nationwide underwent specialized training designed by Mills and his team. And much to their surprise, the training not only reduced errors but also actually saved lives, according to a study published in October 2010 in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA). For more about this project, read the related article in the Spring 2011 issue of Dartmouth Medicine, and watch the video news release by JAMA, below. You can also listen to a teleconference with two of the project's leaders, hosted by JAMA and the Institute for Healthcare Improvement in December 2010.

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