Healthcare News & Insights

Study: Checklist helps surgical teams if a medical crisis occurs

Research has suggested that using a safety checklist helps reduce the risk of infection in patients. Now, there’s proof that such checklists are also effective in mitigating the effects of surgical crises.

There’s a pervasive belief among surgeons and other staff that surgical situations are too complex for a simple checklist to be effective, but that isn’t the case.

In fact, according to the results of a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, when healthcare professionals use such checklists, they’re 75% less likely to miss a key clinical step.

In the study, which was funded by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, surgical teams at several hospitals tested a crisis-response checklist during a simulation of a surgical crisis.

The teams consisted of a surgeon or a mock surgeon, anesthesia professionals, surgical technologists and operating room nurses. Emergencies simulated in the study included an air embolism, an unexplained drop in blood pressure or a severe allergic reaction.

Half the participants used the checklist, while the other half relied on memory. Each team performed significantly better when checklists were available than when they weren’t.

The surgical teams who used the checklist only missed 6% of the required steps. The group that didn’t use them? Those teams missed 23% of the steps.

Benefits make checklists worthwhile

Overall, the staff who participated in the trial gave the checklists high marks: 97% of participants said they would want the checklist used if they were undergoing an operation of their own.  Staff also said the checklists were easy to use and helped them feel more prepared.

This demonstrates the worth of using a checklist during a surgical crisis. Failing to appropriately respond to a crisis event is one of the key factors that affects surgical death rates.

Hospitals must take all possible precautions to keep a patient safe after an unexpected complication arises. There’s no wiggle room to forget any steps in the process.

Start now by implementing a personalized checklist tailored to your hospital’s own surgical procedures. A sample general safety checklist for surgery that can be adapted for your hospital’s use can be found here.

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