Patients frequently do not receive recommended therapies because performance expectations are often unclear. Clinical guidelines provide exhaustive details and recommendations, but this information is not formatted in a way that supports decision making or bedside translation of therapies. When performance expectations are unclear, it is difficult for clinicians to assess their own or others' competence. Checklists offer hope because they codify interventions, remove ambiguity, and increase reliability of care processes. Schmutz and colleagues developed a robust methodology to create a checklist for evaluating clinical performance, which is described in this issue of Academic Medicine.In this commentary, the authors offer several points to consider as checklists become more prevalent in medical education and clinical practice. First, culture is a much larger part of the equation than the checklist; understanding what all stakeholders expect to gain will help engage checklist use. Second, the construction, validation, and maintenance of checklist evaluation tools is labor intensive, requiring innovative dissemination approaches to ensure maximum access and use of checklists. Third, integrated systems that evaluate technically specified and adaptive performance are needed because some aspects of clinical performance cannot be captured on a checklist. Fourth, checklists provide an opportunity to evaluate and improve an individual's performance concurrently with the context in which it is delivered. A tighter connection between education and training activities and process improvement strategies will accelerate improvements in safety and quality. Schmutz and colleagues have provided advancements in performance evaluation that will help health care achieve higher-quality and safer care.
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