BALTIMORE—A patient safety team including researchers in the Johns Hopkins Armstrong Institute for Patient Safety and Quality this month announced a one-third cut in the rate of costly and potentially lethal surgical site infections (SSIs) following colorectal operations after requiring use of a simple safety checklist and urging caregivers to speak up if they see potentially unsafe practices.
The decreased incidence of SSIs, described by Johns Hopkins researchers in the August issue of the Journal of the American College of Surgeons, suggests that systematic creation of a culture of patient safety in which front-line staff members are encouraged to challenge anyone and anything that puts patients at risk can effectively address complex safety concerns in high-risk patients.
Researchers estimate that, if applied to all types of surgical procedures, locally developed checklists and similar culture change programs could reduce the total number of SSIs by 170,000 and result in a nationwide cost savings of $102 million to $170 million annually.
“Applied to other areas of medicine, that cost savings could make a sizable dent in medical inflation while saving lives," said senior author Martin Makary, MD, MPH, an associate professor of surgery at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.
As the most common complication after colorectal operations, SSIs occur in 15 to 30 percent of these patients, resulting in longer hospital stays, frequent readmissions and subsequent need for treatment, at an estimated cost of $1 billion annually. In addition, disability and quality of life often are affected.