Background: Patient safety is a fundamental component of good quality health care. Checklists have been proposed as a method of improving patient safety. This systematic review, asked "In acute hospital settings, would the use of safety checklists applied by medical care teams, compared to not using checklists, improve patient safety?"
Methods: We searched the Cochrane Library, MEDLINE, CINAHL, and EMBASE for randomised controlled trials published in English before September 2009. Studies were selected and appraised by two reviewers independently in consultation with colleagues, using inclusion, exclusion and appraisal criteria established a priori.
Results: Nine cohort studies with historical controls studies from four hospital care settings were included-intensive care unit, emergency department, surgery, and acute care. The studies used a variety of designs of safety checklists, and implemented them in different ways, however most incorporated an educational component to teach the staff how to use the checklist. The studies assessed outcomes occurring a few weeks to a maximum of 12 months post-implementation, and these outcomes were diverse.The studies were generally of low to moderate quality and of low levels of evidence, with all but one of the studies containing a high risk of bias.The results of these studies suggest some improvements in patient safety arising from use of safety checklists, but these were not consistent across all studies or for all outcomes. Some studies showed no difference in outcomes between checklist use and standard care without a checklist. Due to the variations in setting, checklist design, educational training given, and outcomes measured, it was unfeasible to accurately summarise any trends across all studies.
Conclusions: The included studies suggest some benefits of using safety checklists to improve protocol adherence and patient safety, but due to the risk of bias in these studies, their results should be interpreted with caution. More high quality and studies, are needed to enable confident conclusions about the effectiveness of safety checklists in acute hospital settings.