By Ed Gala, vice president, Marketing, U.S. Client Operations, Xerox

Sitting on a flight from LA to Chicago, I have plenty of time to ponder this question:  What do airlines and hospitals have in common?

The question is top of mind following a meeting with Ann Rhoades, co-founder of JetBlue airways, and Xerox healthcare clients.  Rhoades thinks the parallels between the two seemingly disparate industries are so compelling that she now devotes much of her time to transferring lessons learned from pilots and passengers to physicians and patients.  Airlines And Hospitals Can Learn from Each Other

Fascinating stuff, though as I facilitated the round table discussion between Rhoades and IT leaders from large hospital systems like Molina, HCA and UCLA, I wondered if others would agree about the similarities of managing airplanes and hospital beds.

And just when I feared the conversation would crumble, a spirited discussion broke out!

It seems pilots and doctors both tend to have strong opinions about things — and carry the responsibility of human lives in their hands. They are disciplined and driven by data. And they don’t care much for muckety-mucks from headquarters telling them what to do and how to do it.

When you enter a hospital or an airplane you have to check your attitude at the door. You relinquish control to the experts. You are required to provide personal data.  Your clothes are stowed in the baggage compartment or in plastic bags marked “patient belongings.”

Suddenly, I’m very grateful that while I’m a bit sore from sitting in a cramped center seat, at least no one forced me to wear one of those dreaded robes with the open back side.

As we make our descent into O’Hare, I’m reminded that turbulent times in all kinds of industries are forcing companies to share best practices and innovative strategies necessary to succeed in a rapidly changing marketplace.  Xerox clients in LA talked about pairing tech-savvy younger docs with more tenured colleagues who might not be as nimble with new tools of the trade.  And I don’t mean scopes and scalpels; I’m talking iPads, digital storage, scanning and security software.

Rhoades says they do the same kind of “pairing” in the airline biz where younger pilots bring new tech skills to the cockpit, sharing and learning alongside captains who earned their stripes many years ago.

Strategic partners are also playing a role, bringing cross industry expertise and change management skills to the organizations they serve.

Simulated training, electronic records management, compliance, sustainability, BYOD, mobility, competitive and cost pressures … all common challenges between aviation and healthcare.

Wheels down in Chicago, I’m thankful for a safe, on-time arrival.  And I have a doctor’s appointment coming up soon.  Who knows, maybe someone from the airline shared a useful insight with someone from my healthcare system.   I certainly hope so.