Safety Checklists Cut Down on Hospital Mortality Rates: Study

Checklists used to reduce the risk of hospital infections also decrease hospital mortality rates, according to the findings of a study conducted in Michigan hospitals. 

The rate of death among elderly patients in intensive care units (ICUs) fell 10 percent faster than hospitals in other states once a safety checklist designed to prevent infections was put in place, researchers say. The findings were published in a recent issue of the British Medical Journal.

The safety checklist was developed by doctors from Johns Hopkins University and first began being put in place in Michigan hospitals in 2004. Currently, about 70 percent of the state’s hospitals use the checklists, researchers say. The checklist is a simple procedure to ensure that health care professionals remember to wash their hands and take other basic precautions against the spread of germs.

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Researchers from Johns Hopkins tracked the mortality rate of patients 65 years and older in ICUs in Michigan and the surrounding states. They found that before the checklist was put in place, all of the states were showing slight declines in mortality rates. However, once the checklists were in place in Michigan, the death rate for elderly ICU patients began dropping 10% faster than those of surrounding states.

Johns Hopkins researchers said that they expected to find drops in the rates of infection, which they did, but the declines in the death rates were a surprise. However, studies of checklists in other hospitals have resulted in similar findings.

In December, a study by European researchers published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that checklists in operating rooms not only prevented wrong-site surgery mistakes, but it also cut in-hospital mortality in half.

In different study published in November in the Journal of the American Medical Association, researchers found that Veterans Health Administration medical teams who worked together and created a surgery checklist dramatically reduced mortality and medical mistakes in the operating room. When tactics such as pre-surgery briefings, teamwork and surgery checklists were employed at 74 VA hospitals over three years, surgery mortalities dropped 18 percent.

In recent years, there has been an increasing number of hospital infection lawsuits filed throughout the United States, as experts believe that most potentially life-threatening infections can be prevented if steps are taken by the hospital and staff.

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