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Another authority touts the effectiveness of surgical checklists

The Academic Medical Center in the Netherlands published a study this month confirming what Johns Hopkins and many other medical authorities have already documented:  surgical checklists requiring attention to basic details save lives.  The study from Amsterdam found that nearly one-third of preventable malpractice claims would have been prevented by the utilization of a standard checklist. 

Researchers examined 294 successful insurance claims from 2004 and  2005, and found that 29 percent of the claims would have been avoided by proper use of a surgical checklist relied upon at several Netherlands hospitals.  The checklist addresses simple issues such as confirming the operating room schedule, marking the proper location for surgery, and confirming patient identity.  Fully four in ten avoidable deaths involved a mistake that would have been avoided by use of the checklist.

In the U.S., Johns Hopkins and the University of Michigan have pioneered the use of checklists and documented their effectiveness in saving errors and lives.  Yet only one hospital in four has adopted the use of one of the three surgical checklists that have been proven effective.   Perhaps addressing whether the doctor uses a checklist should be the second question a surgical patient should ask her or his surgeon?

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