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3 Surprising Healthcare Collaboration Insights From a Very Big Airplane

Posted by Lawrence Kerr on Wed, May 02, 2018 @ 06:00 AM

jakob-owens-209005-unsplashWe often think of fields like engineering as being quite collaborative.

We know that no one professional has all of the knowledge to build a car, so many people need to offer their expertise when, say, a Ford is built.

But the creation of the new 787 Airliner from Boeing demonstrates going far beyond what we even thought was possible when it comes to collaboration — inspiring me for what may be possible in healthcare collaboration.

In building the new 787 Dreamliner, Boeing is using 3 suppliers and 40 global partners to build the airplane, “sharing the risk and the design burden.”  It's a feat of global coordination and collaboration  and certainly seems to demonstrate that more is possible than we often think when it comes to collaborating on a complex project. 

So we pulled out the most surprising  and helpful  aspects of the project and looked at what the Boeing project has to teach us in the medical field about healthcare collaboration. 

3 Surprising Insights from the Boeing Collaborative Design Project:

1. Even in a collaborative environment, it's still important to have someone who is responsible. 
This was not a completely equal collaboration in which 40 partners participated. Ultimately, Boeing was the owner and guide of the project. Similarly, with any iClickCare consult, there is always a "requesting provider" who remains the responsible owner and guide of the collaborative effort. This clarity helps, especially when collaboration is happening across geographies or in quite complex conditions.

2. Good collaboration is good business (and good medicine).
Some people think of collaboration as positive, but time-consuming, inefficient, and costly. Boeing’s example shows that this complex collaboration was actually the most efficient of all the possible alternatives. The 787 project has costs that are about 20% lower than they would have been and shaved a year off their production schedule. That said, it did involve some behavior change, on the part of the collaborators, and new ways of doing things.

3. To do collaboration effectively, you need a tool to help you. 
In Boeing’s case, they describe the lynchpin of the project as having a common “development environment” (a proprietary software) and set of design processes. This allowed the partners to have a single place to share and store information as well as a single system for moving through the design process. That’s one key challenge with telemedicine solutions that are based entirely on texting or videoconferencing — it does not create a single place or single system where all of the collaboration can happen. And this central location can be key to supporting collaborative efforts becoming effective.


It's certainly courageous to not just effect "business as usual" in building yet another airplane. And Boeing's example is an inspiring way to highlight the truth that healthcare collaboration does involve change, but it leads to better outcomes and lower costs. Even in a very big, or very complicated, project.


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