A patient safety imperative; the “flight-bag” for clinicians

imageWhat does a fighter pilot do when things go wrong? In a true emergency, I’m sure he depends a great deal on training and instinct. But typically when more information is needed to assess a given situation, the fighter pilot refers to his flight bag. In that bag that is typically strapped to his leg are, believe it or not, several thick paper binders. The binders contain vital information on the protocols to follow when something goes wrong in flight. It might be an engine failure, hydraulic leak, loss of pressurization, or damage from in-coming fire. The pilot must pull out the appropriate manual from the pouch and plod through page after page of indexed literature and diagrams. I’m sure a lot of this is committed to memory, but when in doubt he’s literally thumbing through paper while flying at Mach 2. If he decides he must make an emergency landing, he hauls out yet another paper binder from a bag that is strapped to his other leg. That manual helps him find the nearest airport and calculate an appropriate flight path.

Actually, when I first heard about this from one of my colleagues, I found it hard to believe. These pilots are flying some of the most highly advanced technology ever produced. Yet in an emergency and in need of immediate information, they are depending on paper binders. The good news is that soon these pilots won’t need all those binders. One of my worldwide public sector colleagues, Frank McCosker and his team, have been working on an initiative that immediately had me thinking about parallels in clinical medicine. Frank and his partners have teamed with government agencies to put all that information in the pilot’s flight bag on slate tablet computers. They chose slates running Windows 8 because Microsoft technology provided the intuitive user interface and especially the privacy, security, compliance, manageability and flexibility demanded by organizations focused on national defense. In addition, the slate tablets will be connected to a secure, cloud based connectivity infrastructure or “information factory” that will ensure the content pilots rely on is always up to date.

imageimageWho else besides fighter pilots must make split second, life and death decisions in the midst of an emergency or crisis? How about surgeons, ICU and CCU staff, ER docs, first responders and so many others who day in and day out need access to information without compromise during real life emergencies. And just like those fighter pilots, how many clinicians and first responders still depend on thick paper records, binders and books with protocols, policies, procedures and pathways? If it is time to upgrade the resources used by fighter pilots, surely it is time to upgrade the tools used by clinicians around the world. They too could benefit from access to an “information factory” streaming information to highly secure, intuitive mobile devices.

The opportunity to transform the way clinicians access information has never been filled with more opportunity. Healthcare industry software developers, partners, and organizations now have a new generation of thin and light connected devices upon which they can offer very advanced applications to clinicians. These devices operate on a stable, intuitive, manageable and very secure operating system (Windows 8) that is designed with the enterprise in mind. Publishers of acute care clinical pathways, developers of clinical IT solutions, and healthcare organizations themselves can leverage this new platform and these devices to provide clinicians with just in time, always updated information at the point of care. And, they can do so knowing that the devices that hold this information are enterprise ready and that the information on them is safe and secure--as it must always be when personally identifiable health information is at stake. Think of it as the modern adaptation of a “flight-bag” and “information factory” for clinicians.

If you’d like to watch a video to learn more about the tablet solutions being developed for fighter pilots (and now commercial airline pilots too), click here.

Bill Crounse, MD                          Senior Director, Worldwide Health                          Microsoft


Skip to main content