Back in August 2008, we
blogged about the somewhat alarming increase in medical “never events”–serious
medical errors, such as leaving surgical instruments inside patients or
giving patients the wrong medication. Well, it now appears many of those
medical errors, in particular surgical errors, can be avoided. In January
2009 the New England Journal of Medicine published the results of an international
study in which surgical teams simply followed a checklist of steps before,
during, and after surgery. By following the 19-item checklist, the number
of surgical deaths decreased by almost half, and complications were cut
by more than a third.
The checklist was implemented in eight major cities in eight countries
from 2007 to 2008. These cities included Seattle, Washington; Toronto,
Canada; London; New Delhi; Auckland, New Zealand; Amman, Jordan; Manila,
Philippines; and Ifakara, Tanzania. The checklist was most effective in
preventing deaths in developing countries.
Researchers believe that if U.S. hospitals adopted a similar checklist,
some $15 billion per year could be saved.
The checklist, created by the World Health Organization, included such
things as marking on the body to indicate where any incisions will be
made (before anesthesia, so the patient is aware of the markings), making
sure each person in the operating room is aware of everyone’s duties,
and counting all surgical instruments, sponges, and other items after
surgery to make sure they are all accounted for.