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Smartlists for Patients: The Next Frontier for Engagement?

Checklists help us organize our lives and processes and represent an effective way to ensure that important things get done. Over a decade ago, one of us (P.J.P.) created a simple paper checklist that defined actionable tasks for central intravenous placement, resulting in a 70% decrease in the rate of deadly central line–associated bloodstream infections (CLABSIs) in the United States and several other countries. Since then, checklists have permeated medical practice and have been credited with making care safer by supporting clinician decision-making, clarifying therapies to avoid preventable harm, and augmenting communication among care teams. When coupled with efforts to support culture change and peer learning, checklists can help improve the quality of care. Oddly, the one stakeholder who does not yet routinely use checklists in medicine is the patient. We believe that the next phase in health care improvement will occur through patient engagement, and we propose that interactive checklists, or “Smartlists,” may be the key to achieving this objective.

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