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Approaching Medicine With A Checklist In Hand

This article is more than 10 years old.

One of the smartest and most cogent thinkers on health care — surgeon and New Yorker writer Atul Gawande — has a new book out detailing his "checklist" approach to improving the practice of medicine and reducing errors.

In an interview with NPR, Gawande, who is on staff at the Brigham & Women's Hospital and Dana Farber Cancer Institute, talks about the genesis of his new book, "The Checklist Manifesto: How To Get Things Right," and explains that one of the main problems facing surgeons, and the entire medical profession, is the overwhelming complexity of the system:

"Our great struggle in medicine these days is not just with ignorance and uncertainty," Gawande says. "It's also with complexity: how much you have to make sure you have in your head and think about. There are a thousand ways things can go wrong."

At the heart of Gawande's idea is the notion that doctors are human, and that their profession is like any other.

"We miss stuff. We are inconsistent and unreliable because of the complexity of care," he says.

With the development of the checklist, which includes such simple directives as making sure everyone in the operating room knows each other's name, Gawande says he saw "massively better," results in the OR. Now, the World Health Organization, has adopted a surgical safety checklist to be used around the world.

This program aired on January 6, 2010. The audio for this program is not available.

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