Checklists Curb Random Errors

Lawyers who argue law for a living rely heavily on checklists. Trial Practice Checklists by Danner and Toothman remains a classic in the field.

Now an interesting article has appeared in the Journal of the American Medical Association. It states that the medical community is now using checklists in a new way, to empower operating room teams.

Increasingly, any member of the surgical staff can vocalize concern as to management of the patient. Recent research at 74 Veterans Affairs hospitals was conducted regarding patient safety in surgical suites. It was found that those surgery teams using checklists, for everyone in the operating room, improved the death rate. This rate dropped 18 percent on average, over three years.

Peter Pronovost, a professor at Johns Hopkins Medical School, is the author of a well received book on medical checklists. His lists have been found to work best when a strong sense of team work pervades the operating room. Traditionally, ORs have been extremely hierarchical and even authoritarian venues. What is being found now is that when everyone has input into the patient’s safety, the results are transformative. The older model, of an authoritarian and punitive lead surgeon, is slowly vanishing.