Surgical safety checklists can reduce surgical errors in New York

In our previous posts, we have discussed the dangers of wrong-site surgeries. Wrong-site surgeries represent one type of medical malpractice that is easily preventable, but there are many other types of surgical mistakes that can and should be easily avoided.

With that in mind, an association of New York hospitals is asking its member hospitals to adopt a program of using safety checklists in surgery. These checklists have been proven to reduce the risk of medical mistakes.

A 2009 study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that he rate of surgical mistakes complications fell from 11 percent to 7 percent when checklists were used. Dr. Ross Wilson has developed surgical checklists for use in New York hospitals and he states that the checklists are designed to summarize very complex information into a short document. Dr. Wilson indicates that the use of surgical checklists has been in use in the medical community for more than five years and that the checklists are based on similar methods used in the field of aviation.

The checklists ask medical personnel to fill out basic, yet vitally important, information. The checklists typically include 15 to 20 items and they ask a variety of questions, including:

  • Does the patient have any known allergies?
  • Is there a risk of blood loss?
  • Has the patient's identity been confirmed?
  • Has the surgical site been confirmed?
  • Has the surgical site been marked?
  • Has an anesthesia safety check been completed?

Medical malpractice is almost always entirely preventable. When it happens, it is usually the result of a medical mistake or omission. Medical experts believe surgical safety checklists can be used to reduce infections, surgical mistakes and other medical complications by helping medical personnel stay focused on patient safety.

Source: WNYC News, "Hospitals Developing Checklists to Reduce Mistakes," Fed Mogul, 5/3/2011

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