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A Practical Guide to Failure Mode and Effects Analysis in Health Care: Making the Most of the Team and Its Meetings

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Background: Failure Mode and Effects Analysis (FMEA) is a proactive risk assessment tool used to identify potential vulnerabilities in complex, high-risk processes and to generate remedial actions before the processes result in adverse events. FMEA is increasingly used to proactively assess and improve the safety of complex health care processes such as drug administration and blood transfusion. A central feature of FMEA is that it is undertaken by a multidisciplinary team, and because it entails numerous analytical steps, it takes a series of several meetings. Composing a team of busy health care professionals with the appropriate knowledge, skill mix, and logistical availability for regular meetings is, however, a serious challenge. Despite this, information and advice on FMEA team assembly and meetings scheduling are scarce and diffuse and often presented without the accompanying rationale.

The Multidisciplinary Team: Assemble an eight-member team composed of clinically active health care staff, from every profession involved in delivery of the process—and who regularly perform it; staff from a range of seniority levels; outsider(s) to the process—and perhaps even to health care; a leader (and facilitator); and researchers.

Scheduling: Plan for 10–15 hours of team meeting time for first-time, narrowly defined FMEAs, scheduled as four to six meetings lasting 2 to 3 hours each, spaced weekly to biweekly. Meet in a venue that seats the team around one table and is off the hospital floor but within its grounds.

Conclusions: FMEA, generally acknowledged to be a useful addition to the patient safety toolkit, is a meticulous and time- and resource-intensive methodology, and its successful completion is highly dependent on the team members' aptitude and on the facility's and team members' commitment to hold regular, productive meetings.

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: August 1, 2010

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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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