Surgical Safety Checklist compliance: a job done poorly!

J Am Coll Surg. 2013 Nov;217(5):867-73.e1-3. doi: 10.1016/j.jamcollsurg.2013.07.393. Epub 2013 Aug 21.


Background: The Surgical Safety Checklist (SSC) has been introduced as an effective tool for reducing perioperative mortality and complications. Although reported completion rates are high, objective compliance is not well defined. The purpose of this retrospective analysis is to determine SSC compliance as measured by accuracy and completion, and factors that can affect compliance.

Study design: In September 2010, our institution implemented an adaptation of the World Health Organization's SSC in an effort to improve patient safety and outcomes. A tool was developed for objective evaluation of overall compliance (maximum score 40) that was an aggregate score of completion and accuracy (20 each). Random samples of SSCs were analyzed at specific, predefined, time points throughout the first year after implementation. Procedure start time, operative time, and case complexity were assessed to determine association with compliance.

Results: A total of 671 SSCs were analyzed. The participation rate improved from 33% (95 of 285) at week 1 to 94% (249 of 265) at 1 year (p < 0.0001, chi-square test). Mean overall compliance score was 27.7 (± 5.4 SD) of 40 possible points (69.3% ± 13.5% of total possible score; n = 671) and did not change over time. Although completion scores were high (16.9 ± 2.7 out of 20 [84.5% ± 13.6%]), accuracy was poor (10.8 ± 3.4 out of 20 [54.1% ± 16.9%]). Overall compliance score was significantly associated with case start-time (p < 0.05), and operative time and case complexity showed no association.

Conclusions: Our data indicate that although implementation of an SSC results in a high level of overall participation and completion, accuracy remained poor. Identification of barriers to effective use is needed, as improper checklist use can adversely affect patient safety.

MeSH terms

  • Checklist / standards*
  • Guideline Adherence*
  • Humans
  • Patient Safety*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Surgical Procedures, Operative / standards*