Health Care Reform Everyone Can Support – The Use of Medical Checklists

Harvard ArticleA reader sent me an article in September – October 2009 issue of Harvard Magazine  that discusses the work of Dr. Atul Gawande.   Dr. Gawande is very interested in patient safety.  One of his interests is the use of medical checklists, a subject I have addressed in a previous post.

Apparently,  Gawande and his colleagues developed a checklist for surgery patients.  The list, described in the article as addressing "rudimentary tasks" (e.g. confirming the patient’s identity), had some amazing results.  In one year of use in 8 different hospitals around the world, the rate of complications had dropped one-third; surgicial-site infections by half, and deaths of surgical patients by nearly half.

Seven countries and more than two dozen states require the use of surgical checklists.  One wonders why every state in the Union does not require them.

Gawande’s team is developing other checklists for "perinatal care, emergency care, trauma care, burn care, and for managing a particularly troublesome type of bacterial infection."

Gawande described the  work in this area as consisting of "ridiculously primitive insights."  He said in an article he wrote for the New Yorker:  "But, really, does it take [distinguished professional degrees] to figure out what house movers, wedding planners, and tax accountants figured out ages ago?"  

By the way, I have not identified the reader who sent me the article because I do not know that he wants to be identified.  You know who you are.  If you want me to give you credit, let me know and I will do so.  Whether you want credit or not, please keep sending me information – I really appreciate it.  As I am sure you guessed, I am not a regular reader of Harvard Magazine and my college don’t publish no such thing, least as far as I know.