Checklist, please!


by Julie Fine, BS, Legal Specialist, Worldwide Research and Development, Pfizer, Inc., La Jolla, California

While the 2013 Advancing Ethical Research (AER) Conference has drawn to a close, PRIM&R is pleased to continue sharing reflections from members of the PRIM&R Blog Squad to provide our readers with an inside peek of the conference. 

The keynote presentation by Atul Gawande, MD, MPH, was an excellent kickoff to the 2013 Advancing Ethical Research (AER) Conference.

As the first keynote of the conference, Dr. Gawande’s eloquent storytelling drew us in as he described the challenges of 21st century medicine. He noted that even in the most capable hands and with breakthroughs in medical techniques and devices, patients fail to survive surgery at an alarming rate. The reason for such failure is the complexity of the present medical landscape. Physicians practice in high octane environments and have at their disposal the best that medicine has to offer—diagnostics, drugs, technology, and training—but they can miss important connections, which can result in errors.

Physicians have access to 6,000 drugs and 4,000 medical and surgical procedures to treat some 13,600 diseases, injuries, and ailments, as classified by the World Health Organization. The practice of medicine has become so highly specialized and so technical that clinicians have overlooked an almost too obvious solution—a simple checklist.

A checklist can establish the logical steps for all the players on a patient’s medical team—it’s methodical, sequential, strategic, and coordinated. When each step is checked—no matter the intensity of the environment or the circumstances in which the team operates—all the skills, techniques, devices, treatments, and medications come together cohesively, resulting in better outcomes and higher rates of survival.

Inspired by the ideas expressed by Dr. Gawande, I picked up two of his books from the conference bookstore—The Checklist Manifesto and Complications—and I am looking forward to reading more about his work.

Please note that the views presented here are Julie’s own and do not reflect the positions or policies of Pfizer, Inc.