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Surgical Safety Checklists May Shorten Hospital Stays, Save Lives

Overall health costs fall as a result, researchers say

WEDNESDAY, Feb. 3, 2016 (HealthDay News) -- A surgical safety checklist reduced patients' risk of death over 90 days and shortened their hospital stay, a new study found.

The findings suggest that surgical safety checklists can reduce health care costs by reducing the risk of complications or additional surgery to correct problems, said Dr. Matthias Bock, of Bolzano Central Hospital in Italy, and colleagues.

The researchers examined outcomes for more than 10,700 surgery patient in the six months before and after a 17-to-24-item surgical safety checklist was introduced at a hospital in Italy. The study did not include heart surgery patients.

The death rate within 90 days of surgery was 2.4 percent before and 2.2 percent after the checklist was introduced. The 30-day death rate fell from 1.4 percent to 1.3 percent.

Average length of hospital stay was 10.4 days before and 9.6 days after the checklist was introduced, and the hospital readmission rate within 30 days after discharge fell from 14.6 to 14.5 percent, according to the study published online Feb. 3 in the journal JAMA Surgery.

In a related commentary, Dr. William Berry, of Harvard School of Public Health, and colleagues said many health professionals don't realize how difficult it is to effectively implement a surgical safety checklist program in a complex hospital setting.

"A focus on the systems of care and promotion of a culture of safety at the institutional level is necessary to optimize checklist implementation and realize its full potential," they wrote. "Effective implementation is critical to meaningful use of [surgical safety checklists], which can lead to maximally improved outcomes."

More information

The World Health Organization has more on safe surgery.

SOURCE: JAMA Surgery, news release, Feb. 3, 2016

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