"Learning" from other industries: lessons and challenges for health care organizations

Health Care Manag (Frederick). 2012 Jan-Mar;31(1):65-74. doi: 10.1097/HCM.0b013e318242d399.


Although it is true that health care has several distinguishing characteristics that set it apart, analysts both within and outside the industry point to several similarities with other fields and suggest opportunities for health care to learn from other industries. Applications from other industries have been described in the literature, but the transfer of learning at health care industry level has not been examined. This article investigates health care learning from other industries in the recent decade, focusing on aviation, high-reliability organizations, car manufacturing, telecommunication, car racing, entertainment, and retail; evidence suggests that most innovative practices originate with these fields. The diffusion of innovations from other industries appears to start with a few early adopter organizations (hospitals and health systems) and influential other organizations (The Joint Commission, Institute of Medicine, Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, or Institute for Healthcare Improvement) pushing for the innovations. Once the trend becomes accepted, consultants and copying behavior seem to contribute to its spread across the industry. An important question to explore is whether the applications in the early adopter organizations are different (in terms of their effectiveness) from those in the rest of the industry. Another intriguing issue is to examine whether other industries learn from health care organizations.

MeSH terms

  • Diffusion of Innovation*
  • Health Facilities*
  • Technology Transfer*
  • United States