Surgical Checklists Save Lives and Money

Reuters published an article today concerning the role of surgical checklists in the reduction of medical malpractice claims. My colleagues and I have blogged about this on several occasions in the past. Surgical safety checklists reduce medical malpractice claims because they increase patient safety. Now, of course the checklists are only effective if they are used properly and consistently. There is nothing more useless than a surgical safety checklist that sits on the shelf in a doctor’s office and never used.
The first paragraph in the Reuters article should capture the attention of everyone in the healthcare industry. It refers to the findings of Dutch researchers who studied the issue. It states, “Scouring data from the largest medical liability insurer in the Netherlands, they found nearly a third of the claims arose from mistakes that likely would have been caught by a checklist.” We know that in this country thousands of Americans die each year from preventable medical errors. Atul Gawande, author of the Checklist Manifesto and a noted surgeon commented, “This kind of evidence indicates that surgeons who do not use one of these checklists are endangering patients.” Gawande also said that only a quarter of US hospitals use one of the three checklists that have been proven to work! That’s a strong indictment of the system from an expert and an insider.
It’s clear from the evidence that surgical safety checklists save lives and reduce healthcare costs. The puzzling question remains why the healthcare industry refuses to embrace such a simple process.