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What to Look for in a Safety Checklist


Checklists are one of the most effective tools that healthcare teams can use to ensure consistency and safety across an organization. Safety checklists provide a list of items that care teams should ask or observe on a regular basis to ensure that safety standards are being met. (1)

Safety checklists have proven to be effective tools for improving patient safety in various clinical settings by strengthening compliance with guidelines, reducing the incidence of adverse events, and decreasing mortality and morbidity. (2)

A study by Johns Hopkins hospital found that the introduction of a simple five-step safety checklist reduced the rate of bloodstream infections caused by intravenous lines by 67%, while, on average, intensive care units cut their infection rates from nearly 3% of patients treated to zero. During the 18 months of the study, an estimated 1500 lives were saved due to the implementation of safety checklists. (3)

What Questions Should a Safety Checklist Ask?

The specific items on a safety checklist will vary by department and organization, but all checklists should have a clean, organized format to make it simple for team members to follow. An effective safety checklist may ask questions such as:

    1. Is your unit/department/area clean and well organized?
    2. Do all employees have visible badges?
    3. Is all patient related information well protected according to HIPPA laws?
    4. Are hallways free of clutter?
    5. Are all exit signs illuminated?
    6. Are walls, floors and doors intact?
    7. Do you know how to report an incident?
    8. Can staff locate pull stations and fire extinguishers?
    9. Do you store any hazardous chemicals in your department? If Yes: Are the chemicals labeled with a precautionary label? Is a spill kit available in your department?
    10. Is the visitor waiting area clean & organized?
    11. Are all PPE in hallway stocked and well organized?
    12. Are all needles secure in carts and/or drawers?
    13. Are medications secure and only licensed personnel have access to the medication room?

Every item on a safety checklist should be clearly defined and should also have a specific associated action item if the item is not appropriately met. For instance, if the question “Are all hallways free of clutter?” is answered “no”, then there should be a process in place to notify a member of the maintenance team to clean up the hallway, as well as a process to confirm whether or not the hallway has been satisfactorily cleaned.

What to Look for in a Safety Checklist Tool

Part of the growing demand for effective safety tools has come from the emergence of technology in the patient safety movement, which has led to significantly faster and better identification of patient safety risks. Traditional manual methods of performing safety checks (typically through paper or Excel) are not only incredibly time intensive, but often don’t allow for follow-up action plans to be executed efficiently. Software solutions allow organizations to streamline patient safety processes, more effectively manage follow-up, and track trends over time with dashboards and analytics.

When looking for a software tool for safety checklists, healthcare teams should consider the following factors:

1. Streamlined Data Entry

In order to perform faster, more efficient safety checks, care teams need to be able to answer safety questions at the click of a button. Look for a software tool that uses user-friendly form fields and is compatible across mobile, desktop, and tablet devices.

2. Automatic Notifications and Workflows

When a safety issue that needs attention is identified, a workflow should be triggered to make sure that the necessary people are notified in real-time. If the issue isn’t addressed within a certain amount of time, then it should be automatically escalated to a manager or supervisor within the department. An effective digital safety checklist tool should have automatic workflows and notifications built into the system so that issues get resolved as quickly and efficiently as possible.

3. Ability to Track Trends through Dashboards and Analytics

Customized reports allow healthcare teams to drill down into data across departments and identify the source of the problem so that it can be prevented in the future. Access to robust analytics drives long term improvements, so care teams should be sure to consider the flexibility and ease of use of dashboards when choosing a safety checklist tool.

4. Customizable for Your Care Setting

Not all items on a safety checklist template will be applicable to every type of healthcare organization. For example, if your unit/ organization does not have patient rooms but uses exam rooms (such as in the case of primary care providers), you would need to modify certain safety questions such as “Is the bed clean and in good condition?” to “Is the exam table clean and in good condition?” It is important to choose a patient safety software that will be customizable to your care setting so that you are capturing the information that is most relevant for decision-making.

By implementing a safety checklist tool and following the checklist items above, healthcare organizations can drastically improve safety outcomes and get closer to zero harm.

Performance Health Partner’s Solutions

Implementing a software solution for conducting safety checklists is a critical part of improving patient safety. With Performance Health Partner’s Patient Safety Solution, healthcare organizations can optimize safety checklists and automatically follow-up on safety issues to get closer to zero harm. To learn more, visit or request a demo here.

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