Friday, June 27, 2008

You mean they weren't doing that before?

National Public Radio today reported that a recent study has shown that surgical procedures in the developed world are not as safe as they could be. Interestingly, it's not inferior technology or lack of medical teams' competence that's compromising patient safety.

The reason, according to the World Health Organization (WHO) is simple lack of communication. The WHO has piloted a verbal checklist program requiring surgical teams to verify that they're about to operate on the right patient, with the right procedure, in the right place. They also must verify if the patient has allergies, if he or she may need blood, if pre-op antibiotics have been administered and, finally, if any instruments or surgical sponges are unaccounted for.

At the start of the program, the hospitals were doing everything they should only a third of the time. A thousand operations later, that rate improved to two-thirds of the time, with some hospitals approaching 100 percent. Some surgical teams scoffed at the program - calling it "Mickey Mouse stuff". However, one day in the operating theater during a routine knee replacement, a verbal check with the surgical team revealed that the hospital didn't have the right size knee replacement for this patient. Mickey Mouse stuff, indeed.

Is there a lesson in here for A/E firms - you bet there is. At every phase of the project - from the proposal to presentation, contract negotiation to closeout - insist that your project managers and teams are verbally communicating on everything with a checklist that applies to each specific phase. Most of the time, you learn you have nailed everything down. Sometimes you'll avoid costly mistakes - saving enough money and headache for you and your client to make the process worthwhile a hundred times over.

Still skeptical? Pilot the process and see if it makes a difference.

Until next time,


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