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New Campaign for Surgical Checklists

February 20th, 2009

Surgery

According to a recent report on BNET.com, the Institute for Healthcare Improvement is trying to get all U.S. Hospitals to test the World Health Organization’s surgical checklist. While IHI doesn’t believe that a government mandate is required, it hopes that peer pressure from hospitals and national organizations that endorse the checklist will lead to universal adoption. The 19-point checklist includes items that surgical teams should check before anesthesia, before skin incision, and before the patient leaves the operating room. From Pulse Oximeters to introductions to the patient, this comprehensive checklist could change the face of healthcare in our nation.

According to an international study of hospitals in eight cities in advanced and developing countries, use of the checklist reduced surgical mortality rates by nearly half, and inpatient complications, by 38 percent. While the checklist probably wouldn’t reduce the death rate as much in the U.S. as in the less developed nations (Indian, Jordan, Philippines, Tanzania) where the protocol was tested, the study found that “all sites had a reduction in the rate of major postoperative complications.”

IHI has posted the checklist and supporting materials on its website. It’s also promoting the “sprint” to test the checklist by April 1 in its e-newsletter, which goes to most hospitals. More than 4,000 facilities participated in IHI’s 5 Million Lives safety campaign, and IHI is using the same network of 70 field offices that organized that campaign to get this one off the ground. Most of these offices use the resources of local organizations, such as state hospital associations and Medicare-contracted quality improvement organizations. According to IHI project director Fran Griffin, groups in 13 states have pledged to get every hospital in their state to try the checklist.

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