Objective: We hypothesize that high-quality implementation of the World Health Organization’s Surgical Safety Checklist (SSC) will lead to improved care processes and subsequently reduction of peri- and postoperative complications.
Background: Implementation of the SSC was associated with robust reduction in morbidity and length of in-hospital stay in a stepped wedge cluster randomized controlled trial conducted in 2 Norwegian hospitals. Further investigation of precisely how the SSC improves care processes and subsequently patient outcomes is needed to understand the causal mechanisms of improvement.
Methods: Care process metrics are reported from one of our earlier trial hospitals. Primary outcomes were in-hospital complications and care process metrics, e.g., patient warming and antibiotics. Secondary outcome was quality of SSC implementation. Analyses include Pearson’s exact χ 2 test and binary logistic regression.
Results: A total of 3702 procedures (1398 control vs. 2304 intervention procedures) were analyzed. High-quality SSC implementation (all 3 checklist parts) improved processes and outcomes of care. Use of forced air warming blankets increased from 35.3% to 42.4% (P < 0.001). Antibiotic administration postincision decreased from 12.5% to 9.8%, antibiotic administration preincision increased from 54.5% to 63.1%, and nonadministration of antibiotics decreased from 33.0% to 27.1%. Surgical infections decreased from 7.4% (104/1398) to 3.6% (P < 0.001). Adjusted SSC effect on surgical infections resulted in an odds ratio (OR) of 0.52 (95% confidence interval (CI): 0.38–0.72) for intervention procedures, 0.54 (95% CI: 0.37–0.79) for antibiotics provided before incision, and 0.24 (95% CI: 0.11–0.52) when using forced air warming blankets. Blood transfusion costs were reduced by 40% with the use of the SSC.
Conclusions: When implemented well, the SSC improved operating room care processes; subsequently, high-quality SSC implementation and improved care processes led to better patient outcomes.