The Power of Checklists

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In December 2008, I sat in the audience as surgeon, researcher, and author Atul Gawande, MD previewed some exciting research he had contributed to. The results, at the time, were pending and due to be published in early 2009 in the New England Journal of Medicine
 
We all have heard stories of medical mistakes: overdoses of medication, forgotten tools left in closed surgical wounds, and procedures performed on the wrong side of the body. When we read about these events in the newspaper, they all appear outrageous and we sympathize with the family’s loss and their want to sue the doctor or the hospital. 
Dr. Gawande and his cohort refocused attention away from “negligent individuals” and looked at changing systems and process to enhance the reliability of surgery. The result was a simple checklist that resulted in reducing the rate of death in half and in-patient complications by one-third. Something as simple as introducing the surgical team can be critical for patient outcome.
Checklists are an easy tool for ensuring quality. Developing a simple checklist to be completed each time a process or activity is performed can reduce errors, enable consistency, and improve communication. This checklist described here is used in the medical surgical environment, but the tool and concept is applicable in almost any environment. How could you use it in your organization?