Tuesday, 15 December 2015

How checklists can remove the threat to the expert

Experts sometimes feel threatened by Knowledge Management, yet the example below shows that this may not need to be the case.

I posted some years ago about checklists in KM, and how these have been used in hospitals to make remarkable improvements in patient safety statistics related to surgery.

Hospitals are very hierarchical places, especially in the operating theatre. There is the surgeon - the epitome of embodied knowledge, the expert in their field who can take life and death into their hands. Then there is the anaesthetist - another knowledgeable expert, but not of the status of the surgeon. And then there are the theatre nurses who mostly are generalists rather then experts.

Introducing knowledge management into this situation might be tricky. What surgeon is going to want to be told what to do? They are experts, they have the knowledge, and challenging their specialist surgical knowledge is like a personal challenge.

However we know that medical checklists have been use as a simple KM tool to cut patient deaths by more than 40% and complications by more than a third.

If you follow the link above, or watch the video below, however, you find that the checklist is not about the specialist knowledge at all.  It's interesting to see how much of the checklist deals with communication within the theatre team.

10 of the 14 checkboxes in the blue and green checklists  are about communicating and reviewing as a team, rather than the expert knowledge of the individual.  It seems that this is taken for granted, and that the areas for improvement are not related to how the specialists work individually, but about how the knowledge and actions of the whole team is brought together.

Sometimes the simplest KM tools are the best - a simple checklist, driving communicating about the important items, just to make sure that nothing is missed and no corners are cut, is enough

Watch the checklist in action below

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