Jan 17, 2013Checklists in Operating Rooms Improve Performance During Crises
Teams using checklists were 74 percent less likely to miss key life-saving steps in care during emergency situations than those working from memory alone.
With many surgical procedures happening simultaneously and around the clock in a hospital setting, crises in operating rooms occur frequently, however, for individual clinicians, these incidents are rare. These high-risk, stressful events require rapid, coordinated care, and failure to rescue surgical patients who have life-threatening complications is the largest source of differences in rates of surgical death between hospitals. Researchers report that the failure rate for performing life-saving processes of care dropped from 23 percent to 6 percent during simulations when checklists were available.
"For decades, we in surgery have believed that surgical crisis situations are too complex for simple checklists to be helpful. This work shows that assumption is wrong." said Atul Gawande, MD, MPH, senior author of the paper, a surgeon at BWH, professor in Health Policy and Management at HSPH, and director of Ariadne Labs. "Four years ago, we showed that completing a routine checklist before surgery can substantially reduce the likelihood of a major complication. This new work shows that use of a set of carefully crafted checklists during an operating room crisis also has the potential to markedly improve care and safety."
For this work, researchers recruited 17 operating
room teams, comprised of anesthesia staff, operating room nurses, surgical
technologists, and a mock surgeon participant to participate in 106 simulated
surgical crisis scenarios in a simulated operating room at the STRATUS
Center for Medical Simulation at Brigham and Women's Hospital. Each team was randomized to manage half of
the scenarios with a set of crisis checklists and the remaining scenarios from
Researchers found that in addition to reporting a reduction in the failure to adhere to life-saving processes of care during simulations when checklists were available, 97 percent of participants indicated that they would want these checklists used if they experienced an intraoperative crisis as a patient
"Given these findings, Brigham and Women's Hospital has now committed to implementing these checklists to increase the safety of our patients and to evaluate the effect they have on care. I would encourage other hospitals and surgical centers to consider doing the same," Gawande said.
Up-to-date checklists and
implementation materials can be found at www.projectcheck.org/crisis.
Researchers note that because the study was performed in a simulated operating room, rather than in actual operating rooms with real patients, it is unclear if adherence would improve in a real world scenario. However, high-fidelity simulation has become increasingly accepted in medicine as a means of training and evaluation, and well-structured simulation testing has been shown to efficiently assess the value of safety protocols in other fields.
This research was funded by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ - 1R18 HS018537-01).
Send Feedback to: BWH Media Relations