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Can a checklist prevent surgical errors?

One of the things medical providers should be doing each time they work with a patient is inputting information into patient charts and using checklists to make sure they have covered every part of a treatment or conversation.

For surgeons, a surgical checklist could be the key to keeping patients safe. This list could be something as simple as identifying how many objects went in and out of the patient during the surgery or keeping a record of vital signs and medications.

Checklists are known to reduce medical errors during surgery. They may not eliminate them completely, but by using checklists, doctors and nurses can work together to prevent accidents that lead to patient harm.

The World Health Organization has a surgical checklist that was developed to help prevent adverse events and medical errors. It is also designed to help improve communication during surgery and to encourage teamwork throughout a procedure. The checklist has 19 important items that have to be marked for each surgery or procedure. These checklists have been shown to reduce the risk of morbidity and mortality.

What kinds of things are on the checklist?

The checklist has three sections. These include a checklist for completion before anesthetics, one for before the first incision and one for after the patient leaves the operating room. For example, before the surgery, the medical provider should confirm the patient's information and allergies. Before the incision, the medical provider should again confirm the procedure and team members in the room. Finally, after the procedure, the nurse should name the procedure, take specimens and label them appropriately and complete counts of surgical equipment. Surgeons and others should also discuss concerns about the patient's recovery at that point.

These are not all the items on the checklist, but they are a few important steps to take. If your medical provider doesn't use this list, he or she could miss something important.

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