MGMA: Patient Safety Checklists Cut Costs at Physician Practices

Margaret Dick Tocknell, October 26, 2011

Physician groups looking to make their practices more efficient and increase their bottom lines should develop patient safety lists that address emergent events and routine activities. That's the advice of Elizabeth Wertz Evans, RN, the executive director of professional practice for the Oncology Nursing Society in Pittsburgh.

Speaking in Las Vegas during a session at the annual conference of the Medical Group Management Association, Wertz admonished the audience members who didn't think that they had time for checklists to consider that The Johns Hopkins Hospital has saved $2 million with a five-item checklist that reminds hospital personnel to first wash their hands.

"Every physician office is trying to be more efficient. Checklists can be a simple effort that can save a practice time and money," said Wertz.

She noted that checklists have been developed across many industries -- most notably aviation. "What we know from other industries is that developing a checklist clarifies processes so the same steps are taken each time. It establishes priorities, makes sure everything that needs to get done gets done, and it reduces errors." She added that it can also prompt the physician office staff to function better as a team.

During the session, and perhaps unsurprisingly, Wertz provided a checklist of her own, which describes four steps a physician group should take as it develops checklists for an office practice.

1.Develop the best checklist for the task

Wertz explained that some checklists are "do-confirm" while others are "read-do." Do-confirm is a memorized list that is often used to address an emergency where staff needs to jump into a task—a patient faints in the waiting room, for example.

Margaret Dick Tocknell Margaret Dick Tocknell is a reporter/editor with HealthLeaders Media.
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