Use of a Surgical Debriefing Checklist to Achieve Higher Value Health Care

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Abstract

Efforts to improve surgical care by using checklists have been inconsistent in results and not reproducible at scale. The ideal manner for using checklists, along with the time horizon for achieving meaningful and measurable benefits, has been unclear. This article describes a novel process for utilizing debriefing checklists to improve value in surgical care. Debriefings of 54 003 consecutive surgical cases and subsequent analysis of 4523 defects in care by multidisciplinary teams led to rapid-cycle iterative changes in care design and processes. Four dimensions of health care value were achieved: debrief-driven improvements reduced the proportion of surgical cases with reported defects, was associated with a significant reduction in the 30-day unadjusted surgical mortality, lowered costs by substantial gains in efficiency and productivity, and led to a better workforce safety climate. Meaningful and sustained improvements required consistent broad-based teamwork over multiple years, an evidence-based data-driven approach, and senior leader and governance engagement.

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