Health IT startup adopts pilot checklist approach to reduce surgical errors
February 5, 2013 by Stephanie Baum
When Atul Gawande’s book The Checklist Manifesto was published, it spurred a debate about what sectors would benefit from the checklist approach that aviation pilots use before takeoff and to deal with emergencies. Although applying aviation safety practices, like crew resource management, to medicine isn’t a recent trend, the book seems to have renewed that discussion, particularly as to how to reduce medical errors. A health IT startup has raised $1 million to develop software that will apply that concept so members of a surgical team know exactly what to do during routine procedures and when emergencies happen.
Parallax Enterprises, a health IT startup based near Baltimore, Maryland, was started two years ago by Dr. Jeff Woolford, a licensed pilot, physician and military veteran. The investment came from private investors, half of it from military personnel, a spokeswoman for the company said. Woolford said in emailed responses to questions that during his medical training he saw various surgical disciplines that seemed a natural fit for
aviation safety techniques, like crew resource management.
“Our team at Parallax Enterprises has effectively designed the ‘airplane’ for the operating room,” he said
The consolidated healthcare and resource management system will be produced by custom software developer Amadeus Consulting in Boulder, Colorado, which began developing the software yesterday, the spokeswoman said. Under Parallax’s timeline, it will complete software development this spring and begin beta testing it in at least one hospital this summer. It’s also in negotiations with two more, all in the Baltimore region. The money raised will help advance the software through the development and beta-testing phases.
Although some hospitals have enlisted a checklist approach, paper-based versions can be cumbersome while a software program could make this process easier. If it were on a screen, then members of the surgical team could see what their roles are without being told. It could decrease the amount time between the steps of addressing the emergency. Theoretically, each person would have a personalized checklist. It would make them better prepared, the spokeswoman said.
How to reduce medical errors has been a vexing issue for providers, healthcare professionals, oversight groups, and especially patients. Each hospital has its own system for carrying out medical procedures and each has its own approach to preventing errors from happening. Surgical errors can range from leaving things like gauze in patients to “wrong site surgery” — when a procedure is carried out on the wrong leg or arm, or kidney, for example.
There isn’t a national standard for tracking medical errors, though groups like the Pennsylvania Patient Safety Authority associated with ECRI Institute work with a network of hospitals in the state to troubleshoot ways to improve their respective systems to avoid errors and near misses.