Healthcare and aviation have much more in common than many people realize. These are two professions where individual skill and intense training are critical parts of the required competence and mastery. Yet, while both professions require individual talent, there is an essential team or crew element that must be embraced to ensure safe operations and mission success. In both fields there is limited praise for a job well done, yet there are severe consequences for missing the target. In essence, both professions require consistently high levels of execution with the ability to react and adapt quickly when things go wrong.
The parallels that can be found in healthcare and air combat are numerous, and those involved in the medical field – doctors, nurses, administrators, design engineers, lab technicians, pharmacists – can all take many lessons from what is occurring in the warfighting domain.
Below are a few of the points that we like to run over when delivering healthcare keynote speeches at association meetings, annual meetings, and the like:
Healthcare Keynote Speech
Biotech Keynote Speech
Health Insurance Keynote Speech
Medical Device Keynote Speech
MedTech Keynote Speech
Medical Keynote Speech
Hospital Keynote Speech
Pharma Keynote Speech
Physicians Keynote Speech
EHR Keynote Speech
Healthcare Keynote Speaker | Healthcare Keynote Speech
In the late 1970’s and early 1980’s the US Airline industry began to recognize that even though their pilots were talented, well-trained and flying state-of-the-art equipment, they were still crashing airplanes and losing lives due to “Human Factors”. It was argued that our pilots were the best and the brightest, that we were offering them best-in-class training through the military and civilian side, and that these pilots were flying the most technologically advanced airplanes available.
Yet even with all of these positive attributes the US Air Carriers and The US Military were still experiencing fatal accidents at an unacceptably high rate. As the NTSB, NASA, and internal safety officers investigated these accidents they realized that the prevailing causes of the crashes were human factors. The airplanes weren’t broken, and the pilot knew how to fly them, but breakdowns in human factors were often the culprit in accidents. These human factors were:
- Breakdowns in communication
- Lack of situational awareness
- Hasty problem solving
- Poor decision making
- Inadequate teamwork.
At its core, the Captain held almost “Godlike” status and it was considered disrespectful and outside of the chain of command for a First Officer, A Flight Engineer, a Flight Attendant, or someone on the Ground Crew to question their decisions. The Captain would bark out an order like “Go get me a cup of coffee” and the first officer, instead of saying “What about those mountain goats out the front window?” would say “Yes sir, cream or sugar?”. Unfortunately, lives were lost that way; because this cockpit culture could be a deadly thing. In 1981 United Airlines launched a training program to counter these human factor errors called “Crew Resource Management” or CRM. CRM was a comprehensive training program that set standards around how to best operate as a crew without removing the Captain’s Authority. This training program included classroom instruction, simulator sessions, and feedback sessions. It taught Captains that while they were still in charge of the safe conduct of the flight, it was always their responsibility to solicit input from all available resources before making a decision.
These resources could include:
- Their flight crew
- A jump seater
- The ground crew
- A flight attendant
- Air traffic control
In addition, the crew was taught that it was always their responsibility to advocate for what they believed was the best solution, especially in situations where aircrew felt concerned, uncomfortable or unsafe. By the 1990s, CRM had become a global standard, and was adopted by various regulatory agencies and aviation organizations and has led to significantly safer flight operations in both civilian and military aviation.
In the late 1980’s and 1990’s the healthcare community recognized that they were killing 21 people every hour due to entirely preventable medical mistakes. These mistakes occurred in the ER, the OR, Intensive Care Units, and through the pharmacies. The medical community realized that just as in aviation, human factors were the primary cause of these preventable deaths. In fact – just like in aviation where the captain was God”, co-workers in medicine were hesitant to question a doctor during surgery or when he wrote a script. Doctors, just like pilots, were considered the top of their field, the best and the brightest, and healthcare suffered from the same “God” mentality. Nobody questioned the doctor, because “The Doctor was Always Right”.
The healthcare industry saw the potential that aviation’s CRM approach had to reducing medical errors and improving patient safety by applying the same principles to healthcare teams, especially in high-risk settings such as emergency departments, intensive care units, or operating rooms.
The healthcare industry started to adopt CRM in the late 1980s and early 1990s, following the success of CRM in aviation and the recognition of human factors as a major cause of adverse events in healthcare.
The first efforts to transfer CRM from aviation to healthcare were initiated by anesthesiologists, who developed the Anesthesia Crisis Resource Management (ACRM) training program in 1988. ACRM was based on the simulation of critical incidents and the debriefing of team performance. ACRM was later adapted and expanded to other healthcare disciplines, such as surgery, emergency medicine, obstetrics, or nursing. By the 2000s, CRM had become a widely accepted and recommended practice for improving teamwork and patient safety in healthcare123.
Today various healthcare systems, hospitals, and teams use military and commercial aviation principles to ensure safer operations of their shifts, procedures, and patient interactions. Checklist usage is standard in most hospitals today. Hospitals mandate always holding a briefing before surgeries and procedures – just like fighter pilots brief before a mission, surgical teams brief before a procedure. These Briefings are often led by a nurse or physician’s assistant. During these Briefings everyone involved in the procedure introduces themselves, they discuss their role in the surgery, what the body part is being operated on, and the specific procedure they will be performing. They even circle the right knee to indicate where they will operate and put an X on the other knee to ensure it is left untouched. They discuss who will be leading the procedure, who will be assisting, and the roles that the others will play. This briefing follows a Briefing Guide or Checklist to ensure the information flows the way the team expects it to and so that nothing is missed.
The healthcare industry is also trying to Debrief following their shifts and procedures. Their goal, as in aviation, is to talk about what worked, what didn’t, and to discuss what they could have done better or differently during the next shift or procedure. The best healthcare teams are also capturing lessons learned that they can roll into the next procedure and share with others in their field.
Both healthcare and aviation have made huge strides in patient and passenger safety over the past 30 years and a good part of their success is due to implementing CRM. As the next generation of technology and AI enter these fields, it will be important to continue to adapt the CRM model so that no one entity makes decisions without thoughtful input from the team. This will keep our patients safe, and it will keep our passengers coming home.
Below, Mach2Consulting’s Fighter Pilot Speaker Anthony ‘AB’ Bourke interviews Stephen J Ronan, MD FACS, comparing and contrasting fighter pilot combat & training practices with those in healthcare, ranging from quality control to technology megatrends impacting both fields:
Biotech Keynote Speaker | Biotech Keynote Speech
The biotech industry is filled with cutting-edge technology startups working on wearable devices, solutions for chronic diseases, tissue engineering, gene therapy, and even blockchain technology for tracking ingredients and components throughout the supply chain.
The military is working along similar lines from the macro issues down to the micro ones – innovating at all levels of the “kill chain”, and more. Cloud technology for coordinating a battle space, drone technology for observing and attacking an enemy, and defenses against biowarfare are examples.
Just as the military has to pursue any technologies that have the potential to disrupt and revolutionize the battlefield, in the biotech field it’s important to continue to push for disruptive technologies that have the potential to revolutionize patient care and outcomes.
Health Insurance Keynote Speaker | Health Insurance Keynote Speech
The elephant in the room for the health insurance industry is the one-payer system. These systems, rather than just being a figment in politicians’ minds in the 90’s already exist (for instance, Kaiser Permanente in California – they are both the insurer and the deliverer of the health care services, down to operating hospitals and clinics). The entire US healthcare system has been slowly evolving in this direction, and it seems inevitable that we will eventually have government-provided universal healthcare. The siren’s song of this approach is efficiency, and it’s hard to argue with systems like Kaiser’s performance, they deliver health care and insurance very efficiently because they can optimize all throughout the patient’s lifecycle – particularly with preventive medicine.
Similarly, weapons systems always seem to be evolving towards centralization – Lockheed Martin, for instance, has done many acquisitions since the early 90s (vertical integrations, etc.), to the point where there is so much concentration in that one company, that some would argue a single CEO could make disastrous decisions that could impact the entire military direction of the country. They would argue that the F-35 with its extremely long product cycle and cost overruns is an example of this; by the time it was operating, Russia and China were already close to having their response, negating the US’s lead. Single-payer systems in Health Care should take note!
Besides centralization, the other trend affecting health insurers is clearly AI. Deployed in its nascent form in terms of Robotic Process Automation over the last ten years or so, a legion of robotic claims processors (fake human beings following preprogrammed rules) was able to process claim exceptions efficiently and drive claim resolution rates much closer to 100%.
These fake human beings typically operate old mainframe programs which are too expensive and slow to modify without huge projects; so, the business rules required can simply live in the “robots” themselves (in the insurance claims field, robots are not physical ones that will hunt you down but rather virtual ones that do work). With the explosion of AI progress in 2023 represented by ChatGPT and other systems, further gains are expected throughout the white-collar business world.
Probably the closest military analogy to these sorts of systems is drone technology, where the human pilot is replaced by software. Software, although not as flexible as a human pilot, can make decisions more quickly, and in a world where making decisions more rapidly than the opponent can make the difference between victory or defeat, Boyd’s OODA loops concept (Observe, Orient, Decide, Act) taught fighter pilots that if they could shorten their decision-making “get inside their opponent’s decision-making loop”, make decisions more quickly, and overwhelm the opponent by changing the situation faster than the opponent could evaluate.
One can see where robot pilots are an extremely attractive option for the military, especially as they become more flexible and able to handle novel situations properly since they can compress the OODA time down to sub-seconds.
More advanced AI is now being applied to drones, and it will also be applied to numerous aspects of the health insurance industry, all the way from actuarial calculations to insurance marketing (for member acquisition and retention) to claims processing.
Medical Device Keynote Speaker | Medical Device Keynote Speech
The Medical Device industry is focused on a wide variety of products that end up inside and outside the human body. Pacemakers, insulin pumps, diagnostic devices ranging from blood testing to ultrasound/CAT/MRI, and robotic surgery devices are examples. Some of these are focused on patient monitoring or diagnosis, but others are more interestingly focused on making physicians more effective in their jobs. Robotic surgery, for instance, holds the promise of conferring experience in many thousands of operations to perhaps a more novice surgeon who has not developed the experience for the “hands” that a veteran surgeon develops, and for giving the surgeon enhanced situational awareness. Enhanced precision and visualization can make a surgeon perform more similarly to another with more experience, much as ChatGPT technology has been shown to improve tech support personnel’s capabilities. An analogy in the world of fighter pilots is perhaps the helmet-mounted display system, which provides a heads-up display (similar to the video game industry’s “Augmented Reality” concept. By giving the pilot more information when they need it, reaction times can be shortened, and situational awareness enhanced. And, just as Robotic Surgery will no doubt in the future become increasingly guided and then automated by AI, fighter jet tactics are beginning to incorporate the concept of robotic drones, in some cases positioned as “loyal wingmen”, which can act as additional targets for the enemy to worry about and also deliver munitions further ahead from a human pilot in a fighter jet, extending the pilot’s lethality to a larger radius.
In both fields, one of the major challenges is simply: change. People don’t like change. In the case of fighter pilots, renaming pilotless aircraft as “loyal wingmen” is a sort of PR move that is designed to psychologically placate the pilot. Robotic surgeons will eventually have to be re-branded in a similar way so as not to excite the negative passions of human surgeons worried about their jobs.
MedTech Keynote Speaker | MedTech Keynote Speech
The MedTech industry, which includes medical devices, health care, life sciences, and medical technology, is constantly evolving. As new technologies and approaches emerge, MedTech companies are increasingly looking for ways to improve patient outcomes, reduce costs, and enhance the overall quality of care. In many ways, some trends in the Medtech industry are like those in the world of fighter jet development.
One of the most significant trends in the Medtech industry is the increasing use of artificial intelligence (AI) and analytics. Just as fighter jets rely on advanced avionics and navigation systems to operate effectively, Medtech companies are leveraging AI and analytics to improve the accuracy and efficiency of their medical devices. For example, AI can be used to help identify patterns and trends in patient data, which can then be used to optimize treatment plans and improve clinical outcomes.
Another trend that is similar in both fields is the use of 3-D printing and additive manufacturing. In fighter jet development, additive manufacturing is used to create complex and lightweight components that would be difficult or impossible to manufacture using traditional methods. Similarly, in the Medtech industry, 3-D printing is being used to create custom medical devices that are tailored to the specific needs of individual patients – and the use of 3-D bioprinting allows for the creation of living tissue and organs, which could potentially revolutionize the field of regenerative medicine.
The use of robots is transforming both industries. In fighter jet development, drones and unmanned aerial vehicles are being used to perform reconnaissance and surveillance missions. Similarly, in the Medtech industry, surgical robots are beginning to be used to perform complex surgical procedures with greater precision and accuracy.
Blockchain, the technology behind cryptocurrency, holds great promise both in the pharmaceutical and military fields and can be considered a “MedTech” technology. In the future, every step of both drug development and drug manufacturing can be logged and tracked in a non-repudiable, verifiable way. Eventually, drugs requiring refrigeration will likely utilize blockchain technology to verify their freshness.
The military is also expected to adopt blockchain technology for a variety of purposes. Spare parts tracking and verification is a huge issue for the military. Some parts are so valuable, that the production of fake parts and their introduction into supply chains is a constant threat.
Case in point; In the 80s, a man was arrested for selling used helicopter blades. Since helicopter blades experience incredible centrifugal forces, they eventually stretch. This guy was cutting the ends off of the blades, polishing the ends, and reselling them as replacements. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see that the last thing one wants is a key component failing catastrophically during a mission! Blockchain has the potential to revolutionize how parts are accounted for, and vouched for, and can help prevent nightmare scenarios like the one outlined here. The healthcare industry will reap similar benefits from the same technology.
Medical Keynote Speaker | Medical Keynote Speech
Fighter pilots are highly trained professionals who engage in aerial combat, and they possess a set of practices and approaches that can be valuable for medical personnel. For instance, they are renowned for their situational awareness – much of which is supported by highly sophisticated instrumentation in their cockpits, which is all optimized to give them the information they need to aviate, navigate, and communicate. Newer technologies such as remote patient monitoring (RPM), real-time health data, and artificial intelligence promise to improve medical personnel’s situational awareness, whether they are a physician, nurse, or even an administrator looking at Key Performance Indicators for a hospital system.
Fighter pilots rely on their wingmen and ground control for support and trust their team members with their lives. Medical personnel must also prioritize teamwork and establish a culture of trust and collaboration within medical teams.
Pilots, both military and commercial, undergo rigorous training and simulation exercises to hone their skills and practice for real-world scenarios. Unfortunately, many of the medical professions do not have great simulation capabilities yet – surgeons for instance must practice on cadavers- but simulators should eventually arrive on the scene and the medical community will benefit significantly from this advance. For now, even looking at diagrams or images and discussing them is often their most effective form of training.
Importantly, and generally overlooked in other fields, a final step for fighter pilots is regularly *debriefing* after missions to analyze their performance and identify areas for improvement. Medical personnel can adopt this practice by conducting post-case debriefs and promoting a culture of continuous learning and improvement.
Hospital Keynote Speaker | Hospital Keynote Speech
Can you imagine being a passenger and boarding a United Airlines airplane only to find the pilot has not slept in two days? In the present day and age, this is unheard of; but it’s all too common in hospital systems. This is why checklists, common now in surgery settings for decades, are probably eventually going to wend their way into every aspect of medical care in hospitals. Frequent hand-offs during shift changes, tired personnel – checklists are a great way to reduce medical errors. Similarly, checklists are used extensively by pilots, both military and commercial. Dr. Atul Gawande wrote a book called “The Checklist Manifesto”, where he reviewed aviation principles, particularly around this idea of checklist usage, and talked about the value of those in the medical practice, not just in terms of being more effective but actually saving patients’ lives.
Another major challenge hospitals face is their dual mandate of improving patient outcomes while increasing profitability. This is somewhat akin to the US military’s challenge in wartime of destroying the enemy’s forces while minimizing collateral damage to civilians. In both cases, clear policies and chains of authority contribute to executing the mission properly.
Pharma Keynote Speaker | Pharma Keynote Speech
The Pharma industry is concerned with drug discovery and drug development, which increasingly require big data and AI capabilities, as well as the ability to run clinical trials and set up continuous manufacturing once a product has passed enough testing and is approved by the various regulators. Pharmaceutical companies are now realizing, just like the US military, that very long product cycles and very long product testing are a major threat to success in all these phases. For many years, the Russians viewed their various MIG fighter jets as platforms and slowly evolved them by adding features to them, while the US tended to develop a fighter jet and then develop another totally new one. In the past several decades the US military has adopted a similar “platform” mentality, coming out with successive “blocks” of functionality for its fighter jets, to coordinate and bundle upgrades and squeeze the maximum value out of the platform over a lifetime. Limiting new functionality to these bundles called blocks reduces the cost of system integration testing since a collection of features can be tested all at once.
Similarly, the pharma and life sciences industry appears to be adopting a sort of “platform” philosophy – with the poster child being the mRNA vaccine platforms. By pushing to deal with new Covid variants similarly to how the flu vaccine has traditionally been handled, it’s being argued that the industry can do less testing and get their product out quicker, in response to threats – like how the military-industrial complex reacts to threats from near-peer competitors.
The industry would do well to learn from Boeing’s 737-MAX cautionary tale, however. In that case, an airplane that some consider to be a “new” airplane was characterized as simply a variant of the existing 737 (requiring – less testing!). In addition to many other changes, the engines were larger on the new one – and would have scraped the ground if placed in the same spot as previously – so they were moved forward – changing the center of gravity of the plane. This caused a potential stall condition to become more likely, so Boeing added an additional alert for pilots for this condition – based on a single sensor. Since individual sensors can be faulty, this was a disastrous decision. Two crashes later, Boeing has made changes, and the 737-MAX is now recertified for flight (using two sensors and some software changes), but it raises a good question – when is a system a “platform” and if you make enough changes, when should it be considered a new “platform” and put through more thorough tests?
The Pharma industry will likely grapple with similar issues and will no doubt seek to have mRNA “platforms” certified rather than individual vaccines, to compress the cycle of chasing after the newest variant.
Physicians Keynote Speaker | Physicians Keynote Speech
The US healthcare system has been evolving the role of the physician in patient care. Increased attention to spending time buried in the EHR and satisfying the requirements of insurance companies or Medicare have reduced the amount of time physicians spend with patients – asking them important questions, some as simple as “How are you sleeping”, but which can have big implications for the patient. This is true throughout medicine whether you are a primary care physician (such as a family physician in general practice) or a specialist in internal medicine.
The healthcare system would do well to take a page from the world of fighter pilots, where computers and automation are being leveraged to *free up* the pilot to spend more time doing what the pilot should be doing – aviating, communicating, and navigating her aircraft. In the future, human factors studies and improvements to EHRs will hopefully free up the physicians’ time rather than adding to his or her burdens.
Electronic Health Records and Practice Management Keynote Speaker
Electronic Health Records systems (EHRs, sometimes known as EMRs) held the promise of reducing medical errors and providing better patient health recordkeeping. Sadly, it’s clear to anyone interacting with the medical system today that these systems have instead resulted in increasing demands on doctors and nurses to spend time documenting and re-documenting – and to spend less time actually helping patients. Anyone who has spent any time in a hospital knows the nurses are in the halls standing up working on an EHR system on a cart far too often when they could be asking a patient how they are doing or tending to their medical needs. Just because you can code for something and you can have a database with tables in it doesn’t mean those tables should grow and grow in size, with regulation after regulation demanding it until doctors and nurses are working for the software rather than the software aiding them in their jobs.
If you’re looking for a military veteran keynote speaker for your upcoming annual meeting or event, we hope you’ll consider Anthony “AB” Bourke, a former USAF F-16 Pilot and proven business leader as great solution to inspire and motivate your group.
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Healthcare Keynote Speaker FAQs
What makes a great healthcare keynote speaker?
Healthcare is increasingly moving from a break/fix type approach to more holistic preventative medicine, that takes into account the whole patient. The US military, similarly, focuses on deterrence in order to not have to actually fight unless it’s a last resort. Many interesting analogies are possible.
What makes a good medical keynote speech?
The medical field is fairly broad, encompassing the entire life cycle of health care. No matter whether you’re a nurse, a doctor, an administrator, a MedTech engineer, or a health insurance marketer, one thing unites everyone – their humanity and the goal of doing the job right and saving patients’ lives. Anthony ‘AB’ Bourke delivers keynote speeches with powerful stories that resonate no matter what your role, ethnicity, or position, and that will leave attendees with actionable insights to improve both patient outcomes and business objectives. What makes a great hospital keynote speech?
An effective keynote speech for a hospital group should speak to the challenges that doctors, nurses, and administrators face with a special focus on improving patient care and outcomes while meeting business success KPIs for the organization.
What makes a great MedTech keynote speaker?
Experience in an unrelated field such as the world of fighter pilots can bring a lot of insight into changes that are happening due to MedTech. The military is generally very far ahead of civilian industries and professions in the areas of automation and efficiency, because of the nature and importance of its mission.