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Why medical checklists are important

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October 17, 2018

Whether we realize it or not, we’ve been using checklists for most of our lives. Remember the old piece of advice our parents gave us when we were kids – look both ways before crossing the street? That, at its most basic level, is the first grader’s version of a checklist. Step 1: Look left. Check. Step 2: Look right. Check. Step 3: Cross the street. Check!

While this is an elementary example, it turns out that checklists are still relevant in most aspects of our adult lives. We make shopping lists before heading to the store, crossing each item off as we place it in our cart. We make to-do lists at work, ensuring we do everything in our power to impress our bosses. We even list out all the clothes we need to pack before a leisurely beach vacation (doesn’t that sound nice?). Checklists are great ways for us to make sure we complete all the tasks we strive to complete, but sometimes forget about.

The beauty of checklists is their simplicity. Breaking extremely complex ideas down into simpler step-by-step processes, such as preparing for an airplane launch, minimizes the chance of mistakes and maximizes the success of a given process. In fact, simple checklists can oftentimes be more valuable than detailed descriptions, as they provide the most pertinent information to the people who need it at the most relevant times. With a guide highlighting each necessary step for each member of the crew, for example, an airplane can go from needing fuel to full to safely in the air in the matter of minutes.

The field of medicine can benefit from checklists in much the same way. In a study on catheter-related bloodstream infections in the ICU, for example, the use of an evidence-based checklist reduced infections by up to 66%. In a separate study, death rates in noncardiac surgery reduced from 1.5% to 0.8% after implementing a surgical safety checklist, while inpatient complications decreased from 11.0% to 7.0%. With proper curation and implementation, the addition of data-driven checklists to the field of medicine can significantly improve patient outcomes.

If you are a surgeon who sees the need for members of your team to communicate and operate more efficiently, checklists may be useful in providing real-time guidance to scrub techs and nurses. If you are a medical device company that invests in medical education during the launch of new, innovative products, checklists may be useful in training physicians step-by-step and assessing performance. And if you are a hospital administrator interested in standardizing patient protocols and enhanced recovery after surgery, checklists may be useful in ensuring all team members provide the best care possible to every patient.

If you love checklists and are interested in simplifying your processes, look no further than ExplORer Surgical – we would love to help. Contact us in the form below to learn more.

Citations

  1. Pronovost P, Needham D, Berenholtz S, et al. An intervention to decrease catheter-related bloodstream infections in the ICU. N Engl J Med. 2006;355:2725-2732.
  2. Haynes AB, Weiser TG, Berry WR, et al. A surgical safety checklist to reduce morbidity and mortality in a global population. N Engl J Med. 2009;360:491-499.

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