CommonWealth Magazine’s terrific CommonWealth Unbound blog recently highlighted how a safety checklist can reduce the number of deaths from hospital-acquired infections.
According to the author, a flight training manual developed in 1980s states the following, “[E]ven the most experienced professional pilots never attempt to fly without an appropriate checklist. The habit of using a written checklist … should be so instilled in pilots that they will follow this practice throughout their flying activities.” Some 80% of all general aviation accidents in the United States are caused by errors on behalf of the pilot. One missed step in the pre-flight process could cost a life and, therefore, the use of a checklist has become an industry standard. It is only recently that the medical community has discovered the benefits of using a checklist.
Now, 100,000 people die each year from hospital-acquired infections. It is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States. The author states, referring to Dr. Peter Pronovost, who created a checklist to prevent infections, “Dr. Pronovost found that making a habit of using this checklist every time, for every patient, by every caregiver, had dramatic results. He proved that use of this checklist in surgical ICUs had dramatically reduced the number of catheter-related blood stream infections in patients.” However, as the author observes, despite the success of a checklist, many hospitals around the country and in Massachusetts have not systematically implemented checklists.
As we’ve blogged, the Consumer Health Quality Council, a unique HCFA coalition of consumers who have been impacted by poor quality care, has worked with legislators to file three bills, one of which encourages the use of checklists of care in hospitals in the Commonwealth. Should the bill pass and become law, perhaps the high numbers of infections and medical errors will, as Brown suggests in the article, become “a thing of the past.”