Health Minister Tony Ryall says quality and safety improvements in health could free up about $100 million per year and provide 20,000 extra operations.
At the launch of a surgical safety checklist at Parliament on Thursday, Mr Ryall said more has to be done to lift quality and safety and more quickly.
He said the surgical checklist is needed because of the growing complexity of modern health procedures and because doctors and nurses can no longer rely on memory alone.
Mr Ryall said the Government is committed to improving quality and safety in health, and ensuring that is led by clinicians.
He also said he is seriously considering setting up a new national quality agency.
Radio New Zealand's health correspondent says the 21-point list is designed to ensure that operations are done at the correct place on the correct patient, with the correct equipment and medicines.
It follows an international trial that included Auckland City Hospital, in which there was a significant drop in the death rate for surgical patients when the checklist was used.
Several public and private hospitals in New Zealand are already using the list.