Checklists can be very useful in ensuring that everything that needs to be done has been done. Research has suggested that the use of checklists during a surgical crisis can lower the chances that mistakes are made by healthcare personnel. In one study, it was shown that when doctors, nurses, and operating room personnel used written checklists while providing a patient with care in emergency surgical situations, they were 75 percent less likely to make a mistake. Another study showed this to case and that checklists were also cost-effective.
Crisis-response checklists have been shown to help surgical teams perform significantly better. The study simulated a surgical crisis. The mock surgical team was comprised of a mock surgeon, anesthesia professional, surgical technologists, and operating room nurses. The types of emergencies simulated included an air embolism, an unexplained drop in blood pressure, and a severe allergic reaction. Half the participants were given checklists and the other half relied on memory.
The mock surgical teams that did not possess communications training or written checklists had patients who suffered complications 23 percent of the time. Of the surgical teams who had only communications training, their patients who suffered complications 16 percent of the time. The surgical teams that possessed both communications training as well as written checklists had patients who suffered complications only 8 percent of the time.
Despite what these studies have shown, many doctors and hospitals do not want to implement written checklists. Reasons for this include the fear that checklists will “dumb-down” medicine or if the checklists are not followed health care providers may open themselves up to liability. Another reason is that it is the belief of surgeons and other hospital staff that in surgical situations that are complex, checklists will not be effective, even though the studies have shown this not to be the case.
Of the staff that participated in the trial, almost all said that they would want a checklist used if they were undergoing an operation. The checklists were easy to use and gave the feeling of being more prepared.
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