n South African Medical Journal - Tick-box admission forms improve the quality of documentation of surgical emergencies, but have limited impact on clinical behaviour : research

Volume 104, Issue 6
  • ISSN : 0256-9574
  • E-ISSN: 2078-5135



We used modern error theory to develop a tick-box admission form for emergency surgical patients. The tick boxes were designed to actively direct care down appropriate clinical algorithms by encouraging staff to make decisions based on recorded clinical data.

To audit the effect of these tick-box forms on the quality of documentation and the resuscitation process.
We designed and implemented a standardised tick-box admission form, and audited its impact by comparing 100 emergency surgical admissions before the intervention with 100 thereafter. We assessed the quality of the documentation in both groups and analysed the effect of use of the tick-box admission form and the decision nodes on the clinical behaviour of the admitting clinicians.
The introduction of standardised tick-box admission forms dramatically improved the quality of documentation of acute surgical admissions. However, the impact of the decision nodes on clinical behaviour was less obvious. We demonstrated a tendency to cognitive dissonance in that, even though clinicians recorded abnormal physiological data, they did not consistently interpret this information correctly.
Although the use of tick-box admission forms improves the quality of documentation, the impact on clinical behaviour is less certain. Quality improvement is a multifactorial endeavour, and without a pervasive culture of patient safety, tick-boxes alone may well be ineffective.

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