The Power of Checklists in Psychiatry

Posted on September 22, 2017

The book “The Checklist Manifesto” was a game changer in risk management as it crystallised into words the importance of a systematic approach to risk management using checklists.  The aviation industry has used checklists for years.

According to the author Atul Gawande –

Good checklists, on the other hand are precise. They are efficient, to the point, and easy to use even in the most difficult situations. They do not try to spell out everything–a checklist cannot fly a plane. Instead, they provide reminders of only the most critical and important steps–the ones that even the highly skilled professional using them could miss. Good checklists are, above all, practical.

This manifesto can be applied to other industries to improve efficiency.  The aim, however, is not only to minimise risk but also to improve performance.

Improving performance requires the additional component of developing insight. This important concept was highlighted in Gary Klein’s book, Seeing What Others Don’t: The Remarkable Ways We Gain Insights.

In short, reducing errors plus developing insights is the basis of performance improvement. Checklists can help you achieve the first part (reduce errors), which then allows you time to develop the second part (improve insights) which is necessary for creativity and progress. Without checklists, a disproportionate amount of time is spent in reducing errors in an inefficient manner which then allows little or no time to develop insights.