The Preoperative Stop/Go Sign.
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ABSTRACT: Safety rules continue growing rapidly, as if constraining human behaviour was the unique avenue for reaching ultimate safety. Safety rules are essential for a safe system, but their multiplication can have counterproductive effects. To monitor, in an anaesthesia ward, compliance with a process-oriented safety rule, and understand barriers and facilitators which help and hinder physicians from following guidelines. The rule stipulated that the day before surgery anaesthetists had to record in the patient's file the drugs to be used for the anaesthesia (induction, maintenance, airway control). Compliance was assessed before introduction of the rule, immediately after, at 6 months and at 12 months. All medical staff were blinded to the protocol. 717 patient records were included. The results showed an initial compliance with policy, reaching 86% for some items (never 100%). Reduction began within 6 months and returned almost to initial levels within a year. One individual showed poor compliance throughout the study but even initially compliant doctors experienced a reduction. Compliance was higher for complex surgery but lower for unscheduled surgery and when job pressure was greater. Compliance eroded over time. A major trigger of erosion seemed to be lack of continued compliance by a senior member of staff. Rules and procedures constitute fragile safety barriers, and it may be better to forego introducing a new safety rule if it is not considered as a priority by staff and is therefore vulnerable to sacrifice in case of conflict with competitive demands.Quality and Safety in Health Care 03/2010; 19(4):327-31. DOI:10.1136/qshc.2008.029959 · 2.16 Impact Factor
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ABSTRACT: Diagnostic errors are common and can often be traced to physicians' cognitive biases and failed heuristics (mental shortcuts). A great deal is known about how these faulty thinking processes lead to error, but little is known about how to prevent them. Faulty thinking plagues other high-risk, high-reliability professions, such as airline pilots and nuclear plant operators, but these professions have reduced errors by using checklists. Recently, checklists have gained acceptance in medical settings, such as operating rooms and intensive care units. This article extends the checklist concept to diagnosis and describes three types of checklists: (1) a general checklist that prompts physicians to optimize their cognitive approach, (2) a differential diagnosis checklist to help physicians avoid the most common cause of diagnostic error--failure to consider the correct diagnosis as a possibility, and (3) a checklist of common pitfalls and cognitive forcing functions to improve evaluation of selected diseases. These checklists were developed informally and have not been subjected to rigorous evaluation. The purpose of this article is to argue for the further investigation and revision of these initial attempts to apply checklists to the diagnostic process. The basic idea behind checklists is to provide an alternative to reliance on intuition and memory in clinical problem solving. This kind of solution is demanded by the complexity of diagnostic reasoning, which often involves sense-making under conditions of great uncertainty and limited time.Academic medicine: journal of the Association of American Medical Colleges 03/2011; 86(3):307-13. DOI:10.1097/ACM.0b013e31820824cd · 3.47 Impact Factor