Posted on Apr 20, 2017

Avoiding Medical Malpractice With Safety Checklists Untitled

According to the Washington Post: "Hospitals in South Carolina that completed a voluntary, statewide program to implement the World Health Organization's Surgical Safety Checklist had a 22 percent reduction in post-surgical deaths."

Implementation of the protocol began in 2010 and has been measured across forty-four South Carolina hospitals through the year 2013. The study was released this past Monday.

The implementation of the program was actually a part of a case study which was published in the Annals of Surgery, which was studying the intersection of mortality trends and what they called "voluntary checklist-based surgical safety." The practice of including the checklist was meant to not only provide a measure of accountability but to foster communication among surgical teams.

“Safety checklists are not a piece of paper that somehow magically protect patients, but rather they are a tool to help change practice, to foster a specific type of behavior in communication, to change implicit communication to explicit in order to create a culture where speaking up is permitted and encouraged and to create an environment where information is shared between all members of the team,” said Alex Haynes, lead author of the study, who is an assistant professor of surgery at Harvard Medical School and associate director for safe surgery at Ariadne Labs (Washington Post).

There are nineteen items on the checklist; from something as simple as known allergies to the collaborative recovery plan among the surgeon, anesthetist, and nurse. The study was done as a quality control measure rather than a research project, so there are many factors that were not controlled for the study. However, twenty-two percent is a very striking number for such a simple concept.

How Many Patients Have Been Harmed Because A Hospital Did Not Have A Simple Checklist?

Almost every job or profession has checklists. Pilots, bus drivers, construction workers, and engineers; why not hospitals?

The reasons for a checklist are simple: to avoid mistakes, to make sure you don't skip a step, to ensure everything is done right.  Many of our medical malpractice cases against hospitals are caused by a lack of communication or missing a critical step in a patient's care. Sometimes it is fundamental to not following up on an MRI, lab result, or test.

Elementary steps that hospitals fail to follow can lead to serious injuries and deaths.  Medical malpractice in a hospital usually happens because there is either a system error or no system at all. Structural methods of accountability like checklists can keep patients safe.

For the full story, click HERE to be redirected to the Washington Post Website.

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Frank R. Kearney, Attorney-at-Law
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