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Thursday, January 15, 2009

About once a week: Hospital checklists

Today's Boston Globe ran a headline story about the use of checklists by hospitals:

In one instance, Dr. Gawande told the team before beginning surgery that his patient's adrenal tumor (over his kidney) was stuck to a major vein. As a result, the anesthesiologist brought more blood into the room to prepare for the possibility of major blood loss, one of the items on the checklist.

"The patient lost huge amounts of blood in under a minute," Dr. Gawande said. "He was saved by the fact that the anesthesiologist had the blood right there."

Dr. Gawande said that in his own operations at a Harvard teaching hospital in Boston, the checklist catches a potential problem about once a week.

Dr. Atul Gawande was the lead author of a paper published yesterday in the New England Journal of Medicine. The study of eight hospitals found that simple checklists used before, during and after surgery roughly halved the number of deaths of patients, and reduced the frequency of complications by more than a third.

Advice: Find out if your hospital uses surgical checklists.

Read a very different story by Dr. Gawande.

Thanks to Liz Kowalczyk for the source article.

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