Article Examines Surgical Safety Checklist History, Encourages Greater Adoption

By on 12:05 PM

A British Journal of Surgery (BJS) article examines the impact of the surgical safety checklist introduced by the Safe Surgery Saves Lives Study Group at the World Health Organization (WHO).

The WHO Surgical Safety Checklist was launched in June 2008 at the PanAmerican Health Organization headquarters. Containing 19 items, it was intended to improve team communication and consistency of care while hopefully reducing complications and deaths associated with surgery, according to a news release.

The BJS article examined studies from the past decade that evaluated the checklist's impact and difficulty of implementation.

While the authors conclude that use of the checklist as part of safe surgical system can support better practices, including surgical infection prevention, there remains opportunity for improvement. These include the following:
  • ensuring box-checking does not overshadow the importance of the communications and process assurance aspects of the checklist;
  • increasing use of the checklist, supported through advocacy and education, in low and middle human development index (HDI) countries;
  • identifying and removing barriers to successful adoption, such as lack of infrastructure, equipment and trained personnel; and
  • not expecting mandated use of the checklist, on its own, to achieve positive results.
According to the release, co-author Dr. Thomas Weiser said, "Use of a surgical checklist has moved from a good idea to standard of care, yet this seemingly simple safety tool is remarkably difficult to implement. This is particularly true in settings with poor resources and weak management systems; however, those hospitals are the ones that could potentially benefit the most. Many people are working to promote its appropriate adoption and use worldwide."

Phenelle Segal, RN, CIC, FAPIC

Phenelle Segal, RN, CIC, FAPIC, is the founder and president of Infection Control Consulting Services LLC (ICCS). Phenelle has more than 30 years' experience providing customized comprehensive infection control and prevention services to healthcare facilities nationwide. Her services focus on assisting hospitals, ambulatory surgery centers, dental office and oral surgery practices, doctor's offices, nursing homes and other organizations with implementing and maintaining an infection control program that: complies with The Joint Commission, AAAHC, Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services (CMS) and other regulatory agencies; respond to situations of noncompliance; and improve the processes for reducing risk.