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The Checklist Manifesto: How To Get Things Right by Atul Gawande

Thursday, May 27, 2010
Article Alley

Author: Prasoon Kumar

The discerning eyes of a doctor of notices something which is wrongly done by medical professionals anywhere, they simply ignore the incident just because the treatment is already in process and they want everything to be over as soon as possible. Moreover, they don’t want any confusion when the process is still on. Despite the fact that the medical professionals are gowned and gloved, they may still be committing some mistakes not because they don’t have the knowledge, but because they fail to apply it. The book “The Checklist Manifesto: How To Get Things Right” by Atul Gawande gives us a way out of this very common problem faced by people from every walk of life.

To Do Lists Have Delivered Real Results

The life is becoming complicated in every aspect and people have to perform multitude of tasks all the time to get the job done. A simple to do list can be of great help in various procedures. For example, the central line infections were almost eradicated at a hospital intensive care unit in 2001 with the help of a simple five point to do list. When the same checklist was implemented again at another hospital ICU, the infections were reduced by whopping 66% that too within a short span of three months. The list managed to save the lives of about 1500 people in the next year.

Too Much Work And Too Many Steps

The truth is all the fields have made great strides in terms of complexities and technology, though almost all the professionals have become victims of their own success. For example, the doctors have simply too much work with too many steps to do. The national guidelines for treating pneumonia and diabetes are met by the doctors only about half the time. Even while constructing a skyscraper or flying a plane, checklists have helped builders and the pilots to a great extent. In the book, the author also discusses some fascinating real life stories in which humans handling multiple checklists handled incidents as complicated as landing a plane on the Hudson river.

The Side Effects Are Also There

The zeal of the writer is such that he doesn’t think (or should we say write) about the negative unintended consequences of such check lists. In one instance, the doctors are being given checklists to administer pneumonia antibiotics to patients within six hours of admission in the hospital. The result is the antibiotic is being administered because there is money at the stake even though the doctors are not able to diagnose pneumonia that quickly. The dangers of antibiotic resistant bacteria and other infections are also there.

To-Do Lists Taken Too Far

Even if the doctors know what is effective, they still have to apply their discretion. For example, ACE inhibitor drugs treat heart failure but the older and frail patient having low Blood Pressure cannot be administered the same medicine. Checklists may deliver results for patients with individual disorders, but they cannot be used for the patients with multiple diseases. The author Atul Gawande goes too far when he says checklists can help us beat the stock market too.

If you are looking for a simple method to reduce the complexities of the daily life, the book “The Checklist Manifesto: How To Get Things Right” available at is a must read.

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