Surgeons are discovering what kids who play video games have always known — following a map with checkpoints greatly increases precision and accuracy.

In this case, it's a 19-point aviation-style checklist adapted for the operating room that research has shown reduces the risk of death and complications by more than 30 percent, according to an article published in a recent edition of the New England Journal of Medicine.

Doctors at Ocean Beach Hospital are among the first in Washington State and the nation to implement this new surgical protocol, said Dr. David Friedman, a general surgeon at the hospital.

"We're a pilot hospital in this program," Friedman said.  "While we may be a small, rural community hospital, this is very much big league stuff."

In a year-long, eight-nation study by the World Health Organization that included the University of Washington Medical Center as a test site, more than 7,600 patients undergoing non-cardiac surgeries were tracked.  The results of the study were so impressive that Washington is one of a handful of states to launch initiatives encouraging the use of standardized surgical checklists in operating rooms. 

The Surgical Care Outcomes Assessment Program is a statewide physician-led quality assurance campaign that pilot-tested their version of the checklist in 15 hospitals before rolling it out Jan. 15.  The goal is to have every operating room in Washington using the surgical checklist by year's end.

Currently, there are 42 hospitals enrolled or committed to enrolling in SCOAP, said Rosa Johnson, the SCOAP program director in Seattle.  Ocean Beach is one of the first hospitals to be involved and is already providing information being used throughout the state, she said.

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