Year after year, the airline industry delivers millions of passengers around the world, miles above the ground, and at speeds of over 500 miles per hour. This feat is accomplished with an almost-perfect safety record.
Two things have contributed to this amazing record of safety, and both concern superior engineering. Decades of experience have led to highly effective manufacturing processes for aircrafts and their engines. The other engineering development: the development of preflight and in-flight checklists that have virtually eliminated human error.
The commitment to checklists in aviation has been so valuable that medical professionals are taking advantage of similar standardizations to reduce human error. According to a 2016 Johns Hopkins study, medical errors are the third-leading cause of death in America, so hospitals across the country are reengineering their processes to address this persistent issue of technical failure.
What has made aviation so safe, and what is making medicine far safer, is the presence of standard procedures based on research and the use of checklists to interrupt the human tendency to forget things. In his book, The Checklist Manifesto, surgeon Atul Gawande describes how, when followed consistently by medical professionals inserting IV lines, a simple five-part preparation checklist has dramatically decreased the number of deaths by infection and has saved
thousands of lives each year.