SC Hospitals Partner with Dr. Atul Gawande

Hilton Head, S.C. - The South Carolina Hospital Association (SCHA) is embarking on a new patient safety program that can potentially save hundreds of patient lives each year and reduce the number of major surgical complications up to 30 percent. South Carolina is partnering with the renowned surgeon and author Atul Gawande in introducing a Surgical Safety Checklist in every operating room in the state.

Dr. Gawande currently serves as the lead of the World Health Organization's Safe Surgery Saves Lives Initiative where they created a three-part surgical checklist that was demonstrated to reduce surgery-related complications by more than one-third. Most recently, Gawande documented his experience creating and testing the WHO Surgical Safety Checklist in his New York Times Bestseller The Checklist Manifesto.

"We selected South Carolina to be the first state to partner with us to help improve surgical safety around the entire country," said Gawande. "South Carolina has a tremendous history of successfully introducing other quality initiatives such as improving the care of heart attack patients and reducing infection. South Carolina hospitals have already demonstrated their commitment to improving surgical safety by initially testing the World Health Organization's Surgical Safety Checklist in more than 80 percent of the state's hospitals, many of which have since adopted the Checklist as a routine component of surgical care. We would like to collaborate with South Carolina hospitals in developing a model to improve surgical safety at a state level that other U.S. states can follow."

South Carolina was recently ranked by the federal government as one of five states making the most improvements in the quality and safety of health care. "We want to be the safest state and have the highest quality of care. That's our vision," said Dr. Rick Foster, SCHA senior vice president for quality and patient safety. "These numbers are an indication of our success. And working with Dr. Gawande is a tremendous opportunity to lead the nation in improving surgical safety."

In January 2009, the results of an international multi-centered pilot study measuring the impact of the World Health Organization's Surgical Safety Checklist were published in the New England Journal of Medicine. This study demonstrated that by using a simple 19-item checklist the rate of major complications following surgery fell from 11 percent in the baseline period to 7 percent after introduction of the checklist. Inpatient deaths following major operations fell by more than 40 percent (from 1.5 percent to 0.8 percent). The 19 actions listed on the checklist include making sure antibiotics were given within the past 60 minutes, marking the surgical site, setting aside blood, verifying the patient's identity, and having all members of the surgical team introduce themselves. While these may sound like common sense, one or more can be overlooked and often are, judging from the number of surgical complications and deaths each year.

With more than 700,000 surgeries performed annually in South Carolina, the introduction and proper use of a surgical checklist could greatly impact the number of complications that surgical patients may suffer from and prevent hundreds of patients from dying each year.

Yet, only 20 percent of American hospitals are following the checklist, and Gawande is determined to change that, starting with South Carolina. The goal of the partnership with South Carolina is to introduce the checklist in every hospital and have it used for every surgical patient. Using the best practices identified and the lessons learned in South Carolina, he plans ultimately to take the surgical safety program to other states.

"We are thrilled that South Carolina has been selected as the lead state because of our commitment to quality and patient safety and the success we've experienced," said SCHA President and CEO Thornton Kirby. Using the best practices identified and the lessons learned in South Carolina, Dr. Gawande plans ultimately to take the surgical safety program to other states.

About the South Carolina Hospital Association

Founded in 1921, the South Carolina Hospital Association (SCHA) is the leadership organization and principal advocate for the state's hospitals and health care systems. Based in Columbia, SCHA works with its members to improve access, quality and cost-effectiveness of health care for all South Carolinians. The state's hospitals and healthcare systems employ more than 70,000 persons statewide.

10-04-2010 11:03 (EDT)