Is Communication Improved With the Implementation of an Obstetrical Version of the World Health Organization Safe Surgery Checklist?

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Abstract

Objective

Communication failures are consistently seen as a root cause of preventable adverse outcomes in obstetrics. We assessed whether use of an Obstetric Safe Surgery Checklist for cesarean deliveries (CDs), based on the WHO Safe Surgery Checklist, can improve communication; reduce team member confusion about urgency of the case; and decrease documentation discrepancies among nursing, obstetric, anesthesia, and pediatric staff.

Methods

Retrospective review of 600 CDs on our 2 labor and delivery suites before and after the introduction of 2 consecutive versions of our obstetric safe surgery checklist (100 cases in each cohort) was undertaken. The first version was released in 2010, and after modifications based on initial findings, our current version was released in 2014. One hundred consecutive CDs were identified from each of the 3 periods at each hospital, and charts for those patients and newborns were abstracted. Notes by obstetricians, nurses, anesthesiologists, and pediatricians were reviewed. We compared the rates of agreement in the documentation of the indication for the CD between the different members of the team. Chi-square analyses were performed.

Results

Complete agreement among the 4 specialties in the documented indication for CD before introduction of our initial safe surgery checklist was noted in 59% (n = 118) of cases. After initial checklist introduction, agreement decreased to 43% (n = 86; P = 0.002). We then modified our checklist to include indication for CD and level of urgency and changed our policy to include pediatric staff participation in the timeout. Agreement in a subsequent chart review increased to 80% (n = 160), significantly better than in our initial analysis (P < 0.001) and our interim review (P < 0.001). The greatest improvement in agreement was observed between obstetricians and pediatricians.

Conclusions

Implementation of a safe surgery checklist can improve communication at CDs, but care should be taken when implementing checklists because they can have unanticipated consequences. Ongoing review and modification are critical to ensure safer medical care.

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