Surgery Checklist Implemented in South Carolina Hospitals

South Carolina hospitals are addressing an issue that may save hundreds of lives by simply looking over a checklist after surgery. Much like a pilot does prior to take-off, surgeons would have a checklist devised by an international patient safety guru, Dr. Atul Gawande. It appears Dr. Gawande has even written a book entitled, "The Checklist Manifesto". As Malcolm Gladwell comments about the book:

Gawande begins by making a distinction between errors of ignorance (mistakes we make because we don’t know enough), and errors of ineptitude (mistakes we made because we don’t make proper use of what we know). Failure in the modern world, he writes, is really about the second of these errors, and he walks us through a series of examples from medicine showing how the routine tasks of surgeons have now become so incredibly complicated that mistakes of one kind or another are virtually inevitable: it’s just too easy for an otherwise competent doctor to miss a step, or forget to ask a key question or, in the stress and pressure of the moment, to fail to plan properly for every eventuality. Gawande then visits with pilots and the people who build skyscrapers and comes back with a solution. Experts need checklists–literally–written guides that walk them through the key steps in any complex procedure.

Liv Osby of The Greenville News wrote an article on Sunday, September 19, entitled "List Could Put Check on Surgery Deaths".  In her article it was interesting to read phrases like "serious surgery complications", "we're doing the right thing for the patient", and "this could save many thousands of people from harm".  All due to a simple checklist of 19 functions, including marking the area to be operated, verifying the patient's identity, and discussing any special risks. 

This is not a new concept as a very similar article on the same subject was written by the The Washington Post entitled "Surgery Checklist Lowers Death Rate",  back in January of 2009. However, I was happy to not hear anything about Medical Tort Reform and this being a result of trial lawyers but a simple article indicating accidents happen in the medical field and they happen at a high rate. As the article indicates:

..every avoided complication saves $13,000.00 on average, the checklist would also cut annual health care costs statewide by more than $50 million....

Another important point made by Dr. Gawande, is that every professional could benefit from a checklist of the simplest tasks that would avoid a great deal of trouble down the road.


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