University of Washington surgeons to use checklist in surgery to avoid errors

The University of Washington Medical Center is part of a worldwide test drive of a World Heath Organization initiative and is using a checklist in the operating room. The checklist also includes items from a statewide project, Surgical Care and Outcomes Assessment Program (SCOAP). The Seattle Times reports that the medical center has started using a checklist for every surgery done at the hospital. The UW is one of only eight hospitals worldwide that is testing the use of a checklist and they believe that as a result of using the checklist there will be fewer mistakes, better outcomes, better communication and a better standard of care in the operating room and after surgery.

The use of checklists are standard procedure in other industries and endeavors like aviation reports The Times, however, it has not been routinely used in medicine. That is until people like Dr. Atul Gawande writing in The New Yorker explained with his easy-to-understand narrative, how complex medicine can be today and how simply using a checklist can make dramatic improvements in medical care and avoid surgical malpractice.

The checklist used by the UW is a 2-foot by 3-foot laminated poster which is hung on an IV pole in the operating room. It prompts the physicians, nurses and operating room personnel to go through a series of questions and procedures which include:

seattle malpractice attorney surgery checklist

  • Having the surgical team introduce themselves which improves communication.
  • Confirming the patient’s name, operation, and surgery site. This simple check will avoid a surgeon mistakenly removing a right lung instead of a left one, for example.
  • Confirming that everyone knows what surgery is being performed.
  • Doing an instrument count so that no instruments, sponges or needles are mistakenly left in the patient’s surgery site.
  • Confirming if the patient is diabetic and needs insulin or has high blood pressure and is current with their medicines.
  • Confirming whether the patient has any allergies.

Dr. E. Patchen Dellinger at the UW is very enthusiastic about the checklist. He said about the time spent on going over the checklist, “Two minutes seems like a pretty modest investment in safety.”

The SCOAP program plans to have checklists in all hospitals throughout Washington State by the end of 2009. Data from the UW pilot program should be available by the end of the year.

This information was brought to you by Washington Injury Attorney, a service of The Farber Law Group. We represent people who have been seriously injured due to surgical malpractice or medical malpractice. Surgical errors result in thousands of injures every year. We applaud the use of the checklist to eliminate the incident of wrong site incisions, poor pre-operative planning or other mistakes during surgery.

If you have experienced a botched surgery, contact The Farber Law Group as we have more than 40 years experience in presenting victims of negligent doctors and other health care providers.

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