I’m a huge fan of Dr. Atul Gawande ever since meeting him at a patient safety conference in 2005, and then subsequently reading his books and following his New Yorker articles. Perhaps because I’ve been following his works closely or maybe because I’m a practicing doctor diligently making the healthcare system better is why I didn’t find his latest work the most compelling.
Dr. Gawande makes two points, checklists and clear communications among teams, are absolutely required to decrease errors and problems and increase the chances of absolutely the best outcome, whether in constructing buildings, flying airplanes, and performing surgery. We aren’t perfect. Systematic approaches make us better.
Only the last two chapters, “The Hero in the Age of Checklists” and “The Save”, which highlight the “Miracle on the Hudson” landing of US Airways flight 1549 by Captain Sullenberger and his crew and Dr. Gawande’s experience in the operating room of adverting a near catastrophe respectively, were the most gripping.
Ultimately, despite his points the irony will be that the healthcare system will not adopt these ideas, which are accepted as expectations in the aviation industry, because doctors still feel that we are somehow smarter or above checklists or teamwork. This failure to do what we are truly capable of is disheartening. As a result, individual patients will be the ones responsible in taking care of their health and asking questions. A good easy to read book or “checklist” in ensuring you get the right care every time is at Stay Healthy, Live Longer, Spend Wisely: Making Intelligent Choices in America's Healthcare System.
Although I wasn’t bowled over like his other works, nevertheless, I have my own checklist and that is to continue reading and learning from Dr. Gawande and many others who toil in making healthcare better and safer.