Far too many patients are harmed rather than helped from their interactions with the health care system. While reducing this harm has proven to be devilishly difficult, we have found that checklists help. Checklists help to reduce ambiguity about what to do, to prioritize what is most important, and to clarify the behaviors that are most helpful.
The use of checklists helped to reduce central-line associated bloodstream infections at The Johns Hopkins Hospital, in hospitals throughout Michigan, and now across the United States. Clinicians have begun to develop, implement and evaluate checklists for a variety of other diagnoses and procedures.
Patients can also use checklists to defend themselves against the major causes of preventable harm. Here are a few you can use:
Health care-associated infections
- Ask about your hospital’s rates of central-line associated bloodstream infections in the intensive care unit. The best hospitals use the definitions provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and have rates less than one infection per 1,000 catheter days. A rate above three should cause concern.
- Whenever clinicians enter your room, ask if they have washed their hands. Request that visitors also wash their hands often. Washing can be with alcohol gel or soap and water.
- If you have any type of catheter, ask every day if that catheter can be removed.
- If you are admitted to the hospital, check your ID bracelet to make sure all information is correct. Staff should use this bracelet to confirm your name before any treatments or tests.
- If you are making an outpatient visit, staff should ask you to confirm your name and another unique identifier, such as your date of birth, before treatments or tests.
- Verify that blood and other specimens taken from your body are labeled in front of you.