Monday, February 2, 2009

Atul Gawande: check

Here's more from the 'guess-whose-name-came-up' department.

I blogged a few weeks back about my favorite reads in 2008. One of my favorites was a book by Atul Gawande, the doctor who can write (oh so well!). The book had convinced me that Dr. Gawande had the hands of a surgeon and the heart of a writer. Turns out, he also has the mind of a time-and-motion scientist.

A recent article in the Washington Post cites our good Dr. Gawande as the chief researcher on a study about reducing complications and patient deaths in surgeries. And what is the magic answer that seems to reduce inpatient deaths by as much as 40%? A time-and-motion scientist in the late 19th century had a good chance of getting this one right - checklists! Dr. Gawande and team, based on detailed data from 7600 patients across eight countries, make the claim that complications and patient death are often avoidable if only doctors and nurses would make detailed check-lists of basic activities they need to do before and during a surgery, and don't feel embarrassed about using these memory joggers.

Makes me wonder - If checklists can make you 40% better at something as complicated as cutting open a human body, how come I keep hearing that decisions in my (much more mundane) industry are 'too complex' to have a good use of checklists? Are we really as good in the 'neural networks' of our minds as we think we are?

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