2016 Best Medical Book.The Checklist Manifesto by Atul Gawande

Best Medical Book.  The Checklist Manifesto: how to get things right by Atul Gawande.  Once again, my expectations about a book were totally wrong.  And once again, the reality was much better.  I figured Dr. Gawande’s slim title would help me with organizing activities around the house and in my life.  Pretty simple, not too serious.  Instead, he voices deep concerns about the reliability of our hospital care and proposes using techniques from the similarly complex fields of aviation and construction to eliminate preventable errors through the use of checklists.  A general surgeon himself, he forcefully presents the argument that well-structured checklists can raise baseline care, and improve communication, especially in surgical and ICU situations where many specialists have to work together as a smooth system.  He identifies which situations would benefit most from checklists and, although the overwhelming focus of the book is on hospitals, presents concrete examples from Boeing, structural engineering firms and financial fund companies to show how checklists are applied in other industries.  His main example centers on the efforts of the World Health Organization’s Safe Surgery program to develop standardized checklists that could be introduced in hospitals around the world.  He describes the development and data-gathering process, developing and refining the lists, and the issues introducing them in to different national and organizational cultures.  Sometimes, there are passages with too much medical jargon, but overall the writing style is very readable.  Most importantly, upon conclusion, readers will be more aware of problems that can occur during surgery and will have new questions to ask their care givers before proceeding.

For all my previous “books of the year” lists, see my dedicated page for these titles.

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