Background Surgical complications represent a significant cause of morbidity and mortality with the rate of major complications after inpatient surgery estimated at 3–17% in industrialised countries. The purpose of this review was to summarise experience with surgical checklist use and efficacy for improving patient safety.
Methods A search of four databases (MEDLINE, CINAHL, EMBASE and the Cochrane Database of Controlled Trials) was conducted from 1 January 2000 to 26 October 2012. Articles describing actual use of the WHO checklist, the Surgical Patient Safety System (SURPASS) checklist, a wrong-site surgery checklist or an anaesthesia equipment checklist were eligible for inclusion (this manuscript summarises all but the anaesthesia equipment checklists, which are described in the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality publication).
Results We included a total of 33 studies. We report a variety of outcomes including avoidance of adverse events, facilitators and barriers to implementation. Checklists have been adopted in a wide variety of settings and represent a promising strategy for improving the culture of patient safety and perioperative care in a wide variety of settings. Surgical checklists were associated with increased detection of potential safety hazards, decreased surgical complications and improved communication among operating staff. Strategies for successful checklist implementation included enlisting institutional leaders as local champions, incorporating staff feedback for checklist adaptation and avoiding redundancies with existing systems for collecting information.
Conclusions Surgical checklists represent a relatively simple and promising strategy for addressing surgical patient safety worldwide. Further studies are needed to evaluate to what degree checklists improve clinical outcomes and whether improvements may be more pronounced in particular settings.
- Patient Safety
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