There was a great BBC TV “Horizon” programme last week. “How to Avoid Mistakes in Surgery”
Kevin Fong, an Emergency Room Doctor, looked at how surgeons can
reduce the likelihood of mistakes being made in the high-stakes world of the operating theatre.
He investigated how other professionals make life and death decisions
in high stress roles – from fire fighters to airline pilots, with a
neat pit stop in the extremely pressurised world of Formula One racing,
where teamwork and split second decision making are tested to their
One of the big findings is more a rediscovery of what we’ve known for
hundreds of years: The power of the “aide memoire” – or to put it in
English, the power of the simple checklist – to counter the “frailty
of human memory”.
The checklist is now a major safety and performance improvement tool
in many professions.
For example, airline safety has been transformed
by the repetition of checklists before and during take off.
In addition there have been significant improvements in medical outcomes thanks to the work of Dr Peter Pronovost –
taken forward by Atul Gawande’s “Checklist Manifesto”
– see http://gawande.com/the-checklist-manifesto.
Research shows that when surgical teams used checklists, only 6% of steps were missed, compared with 23% missed when checklists weren’t used.
It’s not checklists per se. It’s very much about how experience, “earned in blood” – as the US Navy puts it – translated into simple do’s and don’ts has transformed safety. Checklists help to remind people of crucial todo’s that everyone already knows but often forgets in the stress and pressure of the moment.
But checklists aren’t only useful in high pressure, fast moving situations. Normal, everyday businesses use them to great advantage.
Many online task managers – like Dooster _ are basically glorified checklists. The advantage of online project / task manager tools over spreadsheets and paper checklists is that that they can be used collaboratively ie accessed independently by team member. As they go through their list of tasks, not only do they get reminded of what they’re supposed to do, but managers can quickly see instant overviews of what still needs doing across the team.
(The reason we created Dooster is that a lot our work – like many businesses – involves the same processes repeated again and again. What was missing from other task managers, at the time, was the ability to easily create “templates” of the same lists. Now with Dooster when a set of tasks are completed and it’s time to start again, we can set them all up again at the touch of a button).
Looking to the future; by using online cloud based productivity tools with handheld devices like mobiles and tablets etc, these usually paper based lists can be enhanced and extended to many professions.
As far as fast moving emergencies go, perhaps the next logical step will be to have a voice speaking robot calmly reading out the checklist and ticking off the responses shouted out by the surgeon or pilot. But that’s beyond Dooster’s capabilities for now 🙂
Here’s the link to the programme. It’s a truly great example of documentary film making
You can checkout Dooster at http://dooster.net