I spent a good chunk of last week in a hospital where my mother was undergoing surgery, so I had a chance to see, firsthand, some of the double-checking that doctors and nurses use to avoid making simple mistakes. They repeatedly asked my mom her name, her date of birth, what surgery she was there for and which side of her body doctors were supposed to operate on. All went well, but the experience reminded me of Atul Gawande’s 2007 New Yorker article (and 2009 book) about how using checklists could improve medical outcomes. Gawande discussed a list designed to combat the spread of bacterial infections in intensive care units. First was a reminder for doctors to wash their hands with soap — a low-tech, common sense approach similar to asking a patient whether her right or left side is slated for surgery.