Written Checklists Prevent Medical Malpractice

Medical Malpractice Mistakes

A recent study that was funded by the United States Department of Health and Human Services’ Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality suggests that using checklists in surgical crisis’s lowered the chances that health care personnel would make a mistake. The study showed that when doctors, nurses, and operating room personnel used a written checklist while providing care for patients in emergency surgical situations they were 75 percent less likely to make an error. Another earlier study also came to the conclusion that surgical checklists were not only useful but also cost-effective.

In the study, a simulated surgical crisis was used to test how well a crisis-response checklist helped surgical teams at several hospitals. The team was made up of a surgeon or mock surgeon, anesthesia professionals, surgical technologists, and operating room nurses. Examples of the types of emergencies that were simulated in the study were an air embolism, an unexplained drop in blood pressure, or a severe allergic reaction. Of the participants in the study, half were given checklists to use and the other half relied on their memory. When checklists were available the teams performed significantly better.

The study found when surgical teams did not have communications training or a written checklist, 23 percent of patients had complications. Only 16 percent of patients had complications when the surgical teams had only communications training. Lastly, when the surgical teams had both communications training and written checklists there were complications in only 8 percent of cases.

However, even with these two studies many doctors and hospitals nationwide do not want to implement the written checklists. There are a few reasons for this. The first is that some people believe that the checklists “dumb-down” medicine. The second reason is that if the checklists are not followed they may open health care providers to liability. Another reason is that there is the belief among surgeons and other staff that in complex surgical situation a checklist will not be effective. However the results of the study show that this is not the case.

Almost all the staff that participated in the trial said that if they were undergoing an operation of their own that they would want a checklist used. The also said that the checklists were easy to use and they felt more prepared when using them. This study shows the worth of using a checklist. It is one precaution hospitals should use to prevent medical malpractice.

But what do you think? I would love to hear from you! Leave a comment or I also welcome your phone call on my toll-free cell at 1-866-889-6882 or you can drop me an e-mail at jfisher@fishermalpracticelaw.com . You are always welcome to request my FREE book, The Seven Deadly Mistakes of Malpractice Victims, at the home page of my website at www.protectingpatientrights.com.