Standard checklists improve patient safety


Healthcare practitioners should be using checklists – a risk management technique that has proved invaluable in high-risk industries such as aviation and nuclear power – more in order to ensure important clinical steps are not missed.

The practice of using checklists has been proved to achieve impressive results in a healthcare environment.

A new study funded by the US Department of Health and Human Services' Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) found that when doctors, nurses and other hospital operating room staff follow a written safety checklist to respond when a patient experiences cardiac arrest, severe allergic reaction, bleeding followed by an irregular heart beat or other crisis during surgery, they are nearly 75 percent less likely to miss a critical clinical step.

But while the use of checklists is rapidly becoming a standard of surgical care, the impact of using them during a surgical crisis has been largely untested, according to the study published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

“We know that checklists work to improve safety during routine surgery," said AHRQ Director Carolyn Clancy. "Now, we have compelling evidence that checklists also can help surgical teams perform better during surgical emergencies."

Hospital staff who participated in the study said the checklists were easy to use, helped them feel more prepared, and that they would use the checklists during actual surgical emergencies. In addition, 97 percent of participants said they would want checklists to be used for them if a crisis occurred during their own surgery.

Healthcare practitioners, checklists, US Department of Health and Human Services' Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, New England Journal of Medicine