World Health Organization Adopts Surgical Safety Guidelines Developed at the Harvard School of Public Health

The WHO will use a surgical checklist developed by Dr. Atul Gawande (HSPH) in a "major drive to make surgery safer around the world." You can see the checklist here (you may have to enter an e-mail address to download); or read this brief overview from the HSPH press release:

The global checklist project is an outgrowth of more than a decade of work at HSPH on patient safety and prevention of medical error by addressing health systems errors and solutions. Before anesthesia, for example, the surgical checklist requires confirmation that the patient has a safe airway for anesthesia and has proper intravenous lines for resuscitation. Before making a skin incision, the surgery team must check off that it has verbally confirmed the patient's name, the site and the procedure, and administered an antibiotic to prevent infection. At the end of surgery, nurses must check off that instruments, sponges and needles have been counted, specimens labeled properly and equipment problems addressed.

Countries that have already announced their intention to implement the checklists nationwide are Ireland, Jordan and the UK. The Safe Surgery initiative has been endorsed by scores of professional medical associations worldwide.

Dr. Gawande and colleagues estimate there are 234 million major surgical procedures worldwide every year. Senator Edward Kennedy was scheduled to speak at the conference, but sent this letter to Dr. Gawande instead.

This program aired on June 25, 2008. The audio for this program is not available.

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Martha Bebinger Reporter
Martha Bebinger covers health care and other general assignments for WBUR.



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