A Tale of Two Lists
I’ve been a big fan of making lists even before people like Atul Gawande raised the collective consciousness with The Checklist Manifesto. One of my former co-workers used to make fun of those of us who were “list-makers” and said that we lacked spontaneity and a certain sense of fun due to our fondness for lists. Personally, making lists has kept me sane.
There’s too much going on in most of the working world today and especially in healthcare. Everyone is trying to do much more (remember Meaningful Use?) with the same level of staffing or even less. People are overworked, under-inspired, and fatigued. These are factors that allow near-misses (or actual misses) for patients. Making lists helps one ensure nothing is forgotten and that every precaution was taken to ensure care was delivered as intended.
Checklists aren’t just for the front lines of patient care. I use one when I’m wearing my IT hat as well. They can be simple – I have a checklist I use before presentations to make sure I have e-mail, instant messenger, and other applications shut down so they’re not distracting. I make sure my desktop background is neutral and my screen resolution is adjusted.
They can be complex and multi-faceted. We use checklists extensively in our EHR implementation framework. They ensure that every user in every specialty and every practice setting receives consistent training. Signing the completed checklists after training documents the users’ receipt of training and has reduced the incidence of “nobody every showed me that” complaints to near zero.
I had a chance to revisit our training checklists today when one of our implementation specialists went out on family leave earlier than expected. With it in front of me, I was able to deliver solid training to a couple of specialists even though it’s been several months since I’ve covered their particular discipline. After the session, I made sure to compliment the implementation manager on ensuring that the lists are kept current and used consistently by everyone on her team.
She joked back at me that the training lists are the only ones that seem to be working for her right now. She’s in a bad cycle of making lists for implementation projects that continually get put on hold by the leadership. Once providers figure out that their pet projects are on hold, they raise a political ruckus and the projects are reactivated. She pulls up the lists and updates project plans, only to be put on hold again when the projects are not funded.
It’s a vicious cycle and to the point where she’s not even updating them anymore, just changing the date in the header. I don’t blame her. The best list in the world can’t be successful if no one is able to activate it and carry it through to completion. I think the leadership needs a better checklist to ensure projects are funded before trying to get them up and running. Or maybe they need a checklist for when they try to put them on hold, making sure they are not political hot potatoes before they are placed on hold.
How does your organization view checklists? E-mail me.