How a surgical checklist helped Amazon, Berkshire & JPMorgan choose Dr. Atul Gawande as CEO

A surgical checklist implemented at several South Carolina hospitals may have been one of the factors that led Amazon, Berkshire Hathaway and JPMorgan Chase to name Atul Gawande, MD, CEO of their joint healthcare venture June 20, according to Forbes.

Dr. Gawande, a surgeon at Boston-based Brigham and Women's Hospital, was also executive director — now chairman — of Ariadne Labs, an organization that aims to improve healthcare delivery across the world. Ariadne Labs, along with the South Carolina Hospital Association and the Boston-based Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health — at which Dr. Gawande also teaches — helped 14 hospitals statewide implement the World Health Organization Surgical Safety Checklist, which is designed to reduce human errors during surgery.

That checklist led to a 22 percent reduction in post-surgical deaths in the 14 hospitals that voluntarily completed the Safe Surgery South Carolina program, according to a study published in the Annals of Surgery in December 2017. In an interview with WPSU Penn State last October, Dr. Gawande also commented on his own use of a similar checklist and how it helped him save the life of a patient by taking the time to note and prepare for any unexpected issues that may occur during surgery.

That kind of forward thinking is what Amazon, JPMorgan and Berkshire Hathaway want to address the healthcare needs of their more than 1 million employees, according to Forbes. The idea for a checklist was simple, yet was founded outside of the walls of an inpatient facility or executive suite.

"We need disruptors in healthcare who are not so deeply invested in the status quo designs," Donald M. Berwick, MD, former CMS administrator and president emeritus and senior fellow of the Institute for Healthcare Improvement, told Forbes of Dr. Gawande's appointment.

"I'm thrilled to be named CEO of this healthcare initiative. I have devoted my public health career to building scalable solutions for better healthcare delivery that are saving lives, reducing suffering, and eliminating wasteful spending both in the U.S. and across the world. Now I have the backing of these remarkable organizations to pursue this mission with even greater impact for more than a million people, and in doing so incubate better models of care for all. This work will take time but must be done. The system is broken, and better is possible," Dr. Gawande said in the companies' June 20 announcement.

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