Checklists to Save Lives in the ICU

An article in the New Yorker by Atul Gawande highlights the simple ways in which hospitals can be made less dangerous places for their patients. A checklist to make sure intensive care doctors and nurses handle catheters correctly has been proven to dramatically reduce the risk of deadly infections. Gawande focuses on the work of Peter Pronovost, MD, an intensive care specialist at Johns Hopkins Hospital who consults with hospitals around the country to spread his gospel of routinizing simple procedures. For example, on catheter infections, Pronovost’s work was first published in December 2006 in the New England Journal of Medicine. In 108 ICU’s across Michigan, they were able to virtually wipe out catheter-based infection by enforcing a required checklist of five interventions: hand-washing before handling a catheter, full-body draping when inserting a central venous catheter, scrubbing the skin with chlorhexidine, avoiding catheters in the groin, and removing unneeded catheters as soon as possible. All hospitals should implement these simple ideas which can prevent deadly infections and save lives. Dr. Pronovost is a pioneer in patient safety research.

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