Tag Archives: Root Cause Analysis

Reduced central line infections? Check.

By ThinkReliability Staff

Sinai-Grace Hospital in Detroit has achieved remarkable reductions in bloodstream infections associated with central lines. They’ve reduced the rate of infections significantly by implementing a simple procedure and checklist. We will perform a root cause analysis that shows how these gains were achieved.

First, the hospital needed to determine what was at stake. Over 18 months, it was estimated that more than 1500 patients would die from infections. This is an impact to the patient safety goal. There was non-compliance with procedures, which is an impact to the compliance and organization goals. Infections result in a longer intensive care unit (ICU) stay, which is an impact to the patient services goal. Lastly, the hospital estimated that, over the 18 months, it would spend $175 million in additional costs from these infections.

Next, the stakeholders in the central line insertion process (doctors and nurses) were asked to help determine why these infections were occurring. Bloodstream infections resulting from intravenous catheters result when a catheter is inserted (for vascular access) with bacteria on it. Generally, the bacteria is on the catheter from a missed step in the catheter process which prevents contamination. The steps that were not always being followed were: doctors washing their hands and donning protective wear, patients not being washed with antiseptic or fully draped, and insertion sites not being covered with sterile dressing after the catheter is inserted.

As a solution, a checklist was created that outlined the six steps of catheter insertion. (The outline, Cause Map, process map, solutions, and checklist are shown on the downloadable PDF. To view it, click on “Download PDF” above.) The six steps included the cleanliness steps discussed above. Additionally, the medical professionals noticed that sometimes the procedures weren’t being followed because the necessary equipment was not available in the ICUs. Senior executives from the hospital were assigned to each unit, and were able to properly stock the ICUs. Additionally, the executives got Arrow International to manufacture central line kits that contained the necessary antiseptic and patient drapes.

The progress at Sinai-Grace has been remarkable, by joining all the necessary parties to an effective root cause analysis. Click on “Download PDF” to see what they did. (Read more in The New Yorker Annals of Medicine.)

That’s not my baby!

By ThinkReliability Staff

New mothers and maternity centers alike live in fear that babies will be discharged to the wrong family. The Joint Commission considers discharge of an infant to the wrong person a never event, and it’s no surprise. Even if the mix-up is quickly rectified, huge problems can ensue.

Luckily, we don’t have to wait until an incident happens to us. We can instead perform a proactive root cause analysis, where we consider what COULD go wrong to result in an infant being discharged to the wrong person. A thorough root cause analysis built as a Cause Map can capture all of the causes in a simple, intuitive format that fits on one page.

For our very basic Cause Map, we can consider that two things have to happen in order for a infant to go home with the wrong family. First, the wrong baby has to be given to a family, and second, the matching system has to be ineffective. We’ll break each of these causes down into more detail.

The matching system may be ineffective because it isn’t being used. If a facility doesn’t have a matching system, it obviously won’t be effective. Additionally, if a computerized system is in use there is always the possibility that it won’t be working. Or the staff may not know how to use the system, possibly due to lack of training or insufficient staffing.

If the system is being used but not being checked, it won’t be effective. Again, this could be because the staff doesn’t know how to use the system, or it could just be that the discharge personnel forget.

The wrong baby could be given to a family if the matching system is on the wrong infant. (This is only likely to happen if the matching system is put on outside the delivery room.) Or, the wrong baby could be in a bassinet. This could happen if the baby is kept in an nursery and a nurse is transporting more than one baby..

It’s possible to add even more detail to this Cause Map as the analysis continues. As with any investigation the level of detail in the analysis is based on the impact of the incident on the organization’s overall goals. Once the Cause Map is complete, solutions can be brainstormed that match up with causes. The solutions are shown on the downloadable PDF.

Click on “Download PDF” above to download a PDF showing the Cause Map and Solutions.

Childhood Obesity – A Community Problem

By Kim Smiley

It takes a village to raise a child . . .and to keep one from becoming obese. Childhood obesity is now being recognized as, at least partially, a community problem with community-based solutions. At the peak of the “obesity epidemic”, 32% of children in the U.S. were classified as overweight and 16% were classified as obese.

Obesity can result in a greater risk of disease (more than 90% of overweight children have at least one avoidable factor for heart disease.) This is an impact to the health goal of a community, and the nation. Obesity is the result of sustained weight gain. Weight gain is a simple balance problem. If calories consumed are greater than calories expended, as a result of too many calories consumed, too few expended, or both, weight gain will result. Usually obesity is caused by both.

First we’ll look at the causes of consuming too many calories. Too many calories are consumed when children eat high-calorie, low-satisfaction foods. In many cases, this is because a child has access to these types of foods and because healthy choices are not available. This is true with family, and at school, which generally contribute equally to caloric intake. A high proportion of foods consumed at school may be unhealthy; schools must offer healthier choices. Some schools have done away with soda and candy, but more healthy choices must also be offered. Students bringing their own lunches may suffer doubly from healthy food not being available at home, due to a lack of access or affordability. The all-too-many areas in the country that do not have access to healthy food at supermarkets or farmer’s markets are known as “nutritional deserts”, most frequently found in low-income and/or rural areas. Communities must improve access to healthy food, at school and at home.

The other part of the equation is calories consumed, otherwise known as exercise. However, children don’t need time on the treadmill; they need safe places to play outdoors or a safe route to walk or bike to school in order to get exercise. They also need physical education (PE) at school, and they need to see the importance of physical activity (something their parents may not be modeling at home, based on adult obesity rates, which are extremely high as well). Low-income and/or rural areas are less likely to have safe places to play outdoors, or a safe way for children to bike/walk to school, so these children are disproportionately affected by obesity. Communities must provide an outlet for physical activity for children.

On the downloadable PDF (download by clicking “Download PDF” above), we show the causes and solutions in a Cause Map, a simple intuitive format that fits on one page. The causes are solutions shown here are from the perspective of the community – causes and solutions that can be controlled by a community. If communities began implementing these solutions, the childhood obesity epidemic would be a thing of the past.

Want to learn more? See the Institute of Medicine report, issued in 2007.

Emergency Generators: A Loss of Power Doesn’t Mean a Loss of Life

By ThinkReliability Staff

If you are working at a healthcare facility, you most likely have an emergency generator. However, that emergency generator probably powers only certain critical sections of the facility, and it probably doesn’t include the administration part of the building. Why is that so?

We can look at impacts to the goals to determine why a solution that’s successfully implemented to solve a problem at one location or organization may not be the right solution for another organization. In a hospital, a loss of power could impact the goals pretty severely – the risk of death to the patients impacts the safety goal, the loss of life-saving equipment impacts the customer service goal. Additionally, the production goal may be impacted because the facility is unable to enter new patients. Last but not least, an additional cost (impact to the materials/labor goal) may be incurred transferring patients to a new facility. Obviously the risk of death means a HUGE impact to the organization’s goals, demanding comprehensive reliability solutions.

Compare this to an office building, such as where our administrative offices would be. If a loss of power occurred, the goals would be impacted – employees could get injured leaving the building if the lights went out. This is an impact to the safety goal. We may lose our business function during the outage, which would be an impact to the customer service and production goals. Additionally, we may have to pay our employees for a non-work day. The goals are impacted, but the severity of the impacts pales compared to the impacts of a hospital or medical facility losing power.

If we create a Cause Map based on these impacts to the goals, it shows that all the impacts to the goals tie back to a loss of electrical power, caused by both a power outage AND a lack of back-up electricity source. (The Outline and Cause Map are shown on the downloadable PDF.)

When determining solutions, there are a few that come to mind, including transferring patients to another healthcare facility (which becomes an impact to the goals) and installing battery backups in equipment. However, because of the severe impacts to the goals, a hospital will likely decide that the whole problem can be solved by installing an emergency generator. Problem solved; we have been able to find the best solution.

The administrative offices may feel differently. The cost of installing an emergency generator is large, and if we compare that cost to the costs that would be incurred due to a loss of power without backup, it’s probably not worth it. Instead, the office building may implement solutions further to the left on the Cause Map, such as installing emergency lighting, or using battery backups, that would mitigate (but not prevent) the impacts to the goals. So, just because a solution was the “right” solution in one case, it may not be in every case.

View the Outlines and Cause Maps for both the hospital and office building by clicking “Download PDF” above.

View the Joint Commission’s article on Power System Failures.

We Regret to Inform You We’ve Removed the Wrong Leg . . .

By ThinkReliability Staff

Performing surgery on the wrong body part or wrong-site surgery is a “never event” as defined by the National Qualify Forum (NQF), and can have serious health consequences for a patient.

We can use a Cause Map to determine some ways to prevent wrong-site surgery. Some of the common errors leading to wrong site surgeries are presented in the Cause Map found on the downloadable PDF. They include: time pressure, lack of paperwork, misreading radiography, not marking or incorrectly marking the surgical site, and marking the wrong site.

Once the root cause analysis is complete, solutions are brainstormed and placed with the cause they control. In this example, we use the solutions to create a basic Process Map for the surgical preparation procedure to prevent wrong site surgeries. The solutions are numbered based on the order they appear on the Process Map. It’s clear that consistent adherence to this Process Map would result in fewer wrong-site surgeries.

Click on “Download PDF” above to download a PDF showing the Cause Map and Process Map.

Go to Root Cause Analysis Healthcare Home Page

Fighting Back Against Drug-Resistant Malaria

By ThinkReliability Staff

A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine shows that malaria is becoming resistant to the most effective anti-malarial drugs currently available, known as artemisinin-based combination therapy. This therapy involves two drugs – artemisinin, which acts and leaves the body quickly for a “shock” to the parasites that cause malaria, and mefloquine, or another related drug, which stays in the body longer and cleans up the rest.

Since there are currently no equally effective replacement drugs or a vaccine for malaria, an increase in the drug-resistance of malaria may increase the number of deaths from malaria. In 2006, malaria was responsible for nearly 1 million deaths, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

A Cause Map built using a root cause analysis template can visually explain the causes leading to drug-resistant malaria in a simple, intuitive format that fits on one page. (To view the Cause Map, click on “Download PDF” above.)

A risk in the increase in deaths from malaria is caused by people being infected by malaria, and ineffective malaria treatment. Nearly 250 million people a year are infected with malaria, due to exposure to mosquitoes in an endemic area, no vaccine and no preventive drugs (which are expensive and can have side effects with long-term use). Ineffective malaria treatment can be due to counterfeit drugs, which are estimated by WHO to comprise up to 40% of the drug supply. Counterfeit drug distribution is increasing due to a lack of security of the drug supply.

Additionally, the increase in drug-resistant malaria means that existing treatments are less effective. (Counterfeit medicines are a double whammy in that they also contribute to drug resistance.) Drug resistance generally occurs when an infected person takes a not-quite-whole course of treatment. The treatment kills off most of the bugs, leaving only those strong enough to resist. When these “super” bugs then reproduce, the resulting generations are more likely to be drug resistant. (This is what’s been happening in the U.S. with some antibiotics.)

The most effective (and WHO recommended) course for malaria is the combination therapy discussed above. Unfortunately, the mefloquine class of drugs have severe adverse side effects, including nausea, vomiting, and nightmares. When the two medications are given separately, some people chose not to take all (or any) of the mefloquine to avoid these side effects. A possible solution is to only offer the two together, in a combination pill.

The WHO and other organizations continue to work on this problem. An experiment in Europe recently used weakened mosquitoes as “flying vaccines” for malaria, with some success. Until then, the use inexpensive preventive measures such as mosquito nets and indoor spraying continues to increase.

To learn more about diseases carried by mosquitoes, see our yellow fever blog posting.