clipboard with typed checlkistI’ve always felt that different sectors should collaborate and share expertise far more than they do.   Seeing how someone else completes a task might just be the trigger you need to solve a problem in your practice, or simplify a process.

There may not be an obvious link between Formula One and transplant surgery but an excellent episode of the BBC series Horizon told the story of the moment of revelation for medical staff working in heart surgery and intensive care at Great Ormond Street Hospital. Whilst watching a pit stop colleagues Dr Allan Goldman and Professor Martin Elliot realised that the techniques used by the 20 strong team in the pit lane might be transferable to the complex handover process between surgery and intensive care.   They felt that the thirty minute process of disconnecting, moving and reconnecting the equipment that kept emergency heart surgery patients alive could be improved, and wondered if the well-trained pit crew might hold the secret.

The team from Great Ormond Street worked with the Ferrari and Mclaren racing teams to set up protocols, improve training and to carefully rehearse the process.   The equipment wasn’t changed but simple steps such as specifying the lead professional, drawing up checklists and setting the precise tasks for each person has lead to a halving of technical errors and handover mistakes.   The lessons learnt are fascinating – if you work in project management they make insightful reading.

Lessons were also learnt from the aviation sector.   “Box ticking” is often used as a derogatory term but the methodical pre-flight checks used by pilots have been adopted by the medical sector with some startling results.   A simple surgical checklist developed for the United Nations World Health Organisation (WHO) by Dr Atul Gawande reduced post-surgical complications from 11 to 7% and deaths from 1.5% to 0.8%.   That may not seem a huge reduction but according to the WHO using the checklist could result in saving half a million lives per year.

What strikes me about the surgical safety checklist is how simple it checklistInitially I was amazed that an item was needed to ensure everyone had introduced themselves and explained their role, but then I remembered attending meetings where people have got my name wrong or mistaken me for someone else in the team.   What is a brief awkward moment in a start up meeting could have fatal consequences in an operating theatre.

Another check looks at anticipated critical events for each professional.   Again this is very simple but taking time to review what risks could occur, including what action to take if the event occurs and making sure that the rest of the team know these before the process begins, is a valuable lesson for all sectors.

What processes could you review in your business?