It is so easy to become caught up in the tasks you must complete daily, not only at work in the medical field but also in your daily life. In this short, concise piece, Atul Gawande illustrates how the answer to reducing medical errors and accidental omissions in the operating room may be simpler than we think: a checklist. He provides a nice analogy demonstrating the effectiveness of a checklist in piloting an airplane. Pilots have long employed the use of checklists to ensure an efficient system in the case of an emergency. Dr. Gawande provides plenty of anecdotes and historical examples of how checklists have helped in emergencies. While a checklist seems simple to implement, there are barriers to adoption and execution.
Gawande points out that many people feel as if checklists are an added burden and take unnecessary time out of a routinized protocol, in his case, for cases in the operating room. I agree that checklists have a bad reputation. In med school, we were always instructed to employ checklists when learning clinical skills and conducting patient visits, including seemingly basic steps such as introducing yourself and asking the patient what they want to discuss today. While one may groan having to check off all these boxes, we’d be surprised how we may skip over steps due to autopilot. After having read the book, I recognize the significance of checklists and am curious how we can convince the public to implement them more widely. It will be important to identify barriers, conduct studies, and publish data on the efficacy of such an intervention.