loren Eric Swanson: Checklists

Sunday, February 17, 2008


On Friday, I met my daughter Kacey for lunch at Chipotle's. As we were standing in line, looking at the menu I noticed the manager filling a large order to be picked up. As he put each item in the box, he checked off the item on the order. Very simple, but Kacey and I talked about how good that would be if all businesses would do that. How often have you gotten a take-out order only to get home and find something was missing.

This morning I picked up the March 2008 issue of Fast Company. I'm becoming a fan of Dan and Chip Heath--authors of Made to Stick. Each month they write a column and this month's column was called "The heroic Checklist: Why you should learn to love checking boxes." Here's the story they tell:

The holy grail of checklists may be the one created by Dr. Peter Pronovost of the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. Intensive-care units (ICUs) often use intravenous lines to deliver medication, and these lines can become infected, causing nasty health complications. Pronovost, frustrated by these preventable events, compiled a five-step checklist.

The checklist contained straightforward advice: Doctors should wash their hands before inserting an IV, a patient's skin should be cleaned with antiseptic at the point of insertion, and so forth. There was no new science and nothing controversial--only the results were surprising. When Michigan ICUs put the checklist into practice over a period of 18 months, line infections were virtually eliminated, saving the hospitals an estimated $175 million, because they no longer had to treat the associated complications. Oh, and it saved about 1,500 lives. (http://www.fastcompany.com/magazine/123/heroic-checklist.html)

Isn't that good?


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