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Using Variance Analysis to Detect Hazards in a Bar-Code–Assisted Medication Preparation Process

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Background: Medication errors have received significant attention, with studies pinpointing problems in the physician ordering, pharmacy dispensing, and nurse administering processes. Yet, the nursing process for preparing medications, which typically occurs in a medication room on the unit, has not received much attention. This process is deceptively complex, and without proper design, it could break down at numerous points.

Human Factors Engineering Analysis: Prospective hazard analysis methods allow the detection of potential hazards during the planning, assessment, and design phases of a process or technology. A specific technique—variance analysis—is used within one type of prospective hazard analysis, the sociotechnical systems analysis (STSA). STSA provides guidance to (1) analyze existing or planned systems to understand the social, technical, and environmental system components; (2) collect and analyze the system data; and (3) use the analysis to design or redesign the system.

Discussion: The STSA variance analysis is an additional tool that health care clinicians, administrators, and risk managers can use to proactively identify hazards for control. Although this larger analysis is more time consuming, it forces the analysts to conduct a true systems analysis before implementing technical, social, environmental, or organizational changes.

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: November 1, 2004

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  • Published monthly, The Joint Commission Journal on Quality and Patient Safety is a peer-reviewed publication dedicated to providing health professionals with the information they need to promote the quality and safety of health care. The Joint Commission Journal on Quality and Patient Safety invites original manuscripts on the development, adaptation, and/or implementation of innovative thinking, strategies, and practices in improving quality and safety in health care. Case studies, program or project reports, reports of new methodologies or new applications of methodologies, research studies on the effectiveness of improvement interventions, and commentaries on issues and practices are all considered.

    Also known as Joint Commission Journal on Quality Improvement and Joint Commission Journal on Quality and Safety
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