Study: Checklist Reduces Surgery Deaths

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A new study by the Harvard School of Public Health shows that using a short checklist during major surgeries dramatically reduces deaths and complications.

WBUR's Sacha Pfeiffer reports.

The simple checklist requires doctors to pause during surgery and ask a few basic questions, such as: Are we about to operate on the correct body part? Sounds obvious, but Harvard researcher Alex Haynes says checking eliminates more than a third of deaths and complications.

Haynes: It is reflective of a change in the culture of the operating room. It requires an emphasis on team-based care, and the operating room traditionally has been very surgeon-led — the surgeon is the captain of ship.

But Haynes says with a checklist, other team members are more likely to speak up if they see something going wrong.

This program aired on January 15, 2009. The audio for this program is not available.

Sacha Pfeiffer Twitter Host, All Things Considered
Sacha Pfeiffer was formerly the host of WBUR's All Things Considered.