Checklists Save Lives

Posted on January 17, 2009  Comments (3)

photo of surgery room

Checklists are a simple quality tool that have been used widely for decades. Pilots use them, without fail, to save lives. Some surgeons have been using them and the evidence is mounting that checklists can save many more lives if more in health care use them. Studies Show Surgeons Could Save Lives, $20B by Using Checklists

Eight hospitals reduced the number of deaths from surgery by more than 40% by using a checklist that helps doctors and nurses avoid errors, according to a report released online today in the New England Journal of Medicine.

If all hospitals used the same checklist, they could save tens of thousands of lives and $20 billion in medical costs each year, says author Atul Gawande, a surgeon and associate professor at the Harvard School of Public Health.

In his study, which was funded by the World Health Organization, hospitals reduced their rate of death after surgery from 1.5% to 0.8%. They also trimmed the number of complications from 11% to 7%.

The study shows that an operation’s success depends far more on teamwork and clear communication than the brilliance of individual doctors, says co-author Alex Haynes, also of Harvard. And that’s good news, he says, because it means hospitals everywhere can improve.

Researchers modeled the checklist, which takes only two minutes to go through, after ones used by the aviation industry, which has dramatically reduced the number of crashes in recent years.

This is more great evidence of the value of applying simple management tools that are already well known. The idea that improvement takes brand new breakthrough ideas is just plain wrong.

Related: Using Books to Ignite ImprovementThe Power of a ChecklistNew, Different, BetterManagement Improvement History and Health CareOpen Source Management TermsFast Company Interview with Jeff Immelt

3 Responses to “Checklists Save Lives”

  1. Eyal Sela
    January 17th, 2009 @ 7:48 am

    I agree. a few days ago I have written a post covering that topic exactly. Checklists indeed can improve outputs.

  2. Karen
    February 28th, 2009 @ 9:26 am

    Thank you – I'm sending this article to my Supervisor. We've talked about checklists (for our various daily tasks) more than once – I'm not going to put this off any longer!

  3. Curious Cat Management Improvement Blog » Checklists in Software Development
    April 7th, 2009 @ 10:31 am

    Copying what others do, doesn’t work well. But understanding the concepts they use to improve performance and then adapting those concepts to your organization is the path to improved performance…

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