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Friday, July 19, 2013

Book Review: Safe Patients, Smart Hospitals: How One Doctor's Checklist Can Help Us Change Health Care from the Inside Out

Summer has arrived and with it I hope many of you have had or are about to enjoy some vacation time.  Being an avid reader, summer vacations sitting on the dock enjoying the view of the river and devouring a good book are some of my most prized moments.

This book is a story of a simple device, a checklist, that the authors suggest can make healthcare safer.  Written by Peter Pronovost, an anaesthesiologist and critical care specialist and Eric Vohr a communications executive, together they build a convincing case for urgent and radical change of western healthcare systems. Using personal accounts of two deaths, Pronovost illustrates perfectly how adept modern health systems are in harming patients unnecessarily.  Throughout the book, the narrative continues with an array of true stories of preventable error and how through the use of the checklist, he has been able to successfully address these events.

With the development, implementation and measurement of interventions using the checklist; Pronovost stands alongside a handful of pioneers who have truly transformed patient safety and infection prevention.  This book provides a fascinating insight into how it all happened, who was involved in the collaborative development of the checklist and what might happen next.  He talks about the checklist as a life saving device which adds an interesting angle to the story, and should challenge every reader to reconsider how we position the things we do, the tools we use, the approaches we take in our day to day work in infection prevention and the language we use.  At first the reader might be forgiven for thinking this is a little exuberant - I mean is the checklist really equivalent to the discovery of penicillin?  However, given the fact that the checklist if implemented successfully and consistently could save lives on a monumental scale, the language might even be underselling the device as Pronovost believes its use could eradicate 1 million cases of central line associated blood stream infections and save 50, 000 lives.  Something I think we can all agree is worth doing!

The book emphasizes how the checklist revolution can only be achieved alongside a parallel cultural revolution in our healthcare systems.  The checklist effect is predicated on a collaborative culture and the need for a radical shift in the status of the physician.  Pushing the boundaries of convention throughout, Pronovost is clear that success requires the status quo to be transformed beyond recognition.

Being a list maker myself, I know firsthand a successful grocery shopping trip or errand run only occurs if I have made my list, checked it twice and checked it off as I go along.   If the success rate of simple tasks like grocery shopping can be improved, I'm all for using checklist to improve infection prevention and patient safety.  You never you when you'll be a patient and Pronovost's checklist could save your life.

Bugging off!



  1. Nicole Kenny (nkenny@virox.com)September 21, 2013 at 9:09 AM

    Thanks Theresa! I hope you will continue enjoying the blogs we write! Please share with any friends or colleagues that may find the topics we write about of interest and if you ever have a topic you would like to see covered just drop me a line!