Risk management involves steps taken to reduce injuries that might be caused to patients, the staff in health care provision and visitors to the facility (University of Scranton). Effective risk management plans have to be developed by risk managers to ensure that safety is achieved in health care settings. The purpose of this paper is to look into risk assessment with a focus on Failure Mode and Effects Analysis (FMEA). The paper will examine the rationale for the use of FMEA in health care based risk management programs. The aim will be to find out whether or not FMEA should be utilized in a health care setting.
Failure Mode and Effects Analysis (FMEA)
FMEA has been identified as a process of identifying and preventing problems before they occur (NCPS). In this regard, FMEA aims at preventing dangers before they occur even if there has never been a previous occurrence of such a problem (NCPS). FMEA, therefore, is not a reactive process but a proactive process that seeks to find potential dangers that are likely to occur in a healthcare setting and seeking ways of preventing them. One does not need to put measures after the problem has occurred but rather makes sure that the problem does not occur by placing necessary measures aimed at preventing accidental happenings. FMEA identifies possible areas where a process might fail and how it can fail and then assesses the impact of the failures if they were to occur (IHI, 2015). FMEA is concerned with reviewing the steps in the process. It looks into what could go wrong in the process and the causes of the failure as well as the consequences of these failures (IHI, 2015).
The process was not originally designed for healthcare (IHI, 2015) but it can be useful in such a setting and can be vital in helping to avoid tragedies in healthcare provision and even save lives. If it can be useful in preventing risks in healthcare facilities, then there is no justification why it should not be used. The fact that it was not designed for healthcare should not deter risk managers from using this tool if it can be useful for the risk management process. However, there is a need for more evaluation of the process to find out if it would be beneficial to risk managers in healthcare facilities.
Processes improvement in healthcare organizations using FMEA
FMEA can be very useful in improving healthcare risk management processes. It is vital that tragedy is prevented before it even happen, which is what FMEA aims at (NCPS). In this regard, the risk management plans for healthcare providers would be directed towards identifying potential risk areas and their consequences to all those involved in healthcare from patients, staff on hospitals to visitors in healthcare facilities. The risk managers in healthcare facilities in this regard will not have to wait to respond to tragedies when they have already occurred but will rather act beforehand and prevent them from happening.
In this regard, FMEA will aid research and proactive steps that make healthcare facilities safer for patients and all those who access them. The National Center for Patient Protection identifies several areas where FMEA can be useful in preventing major tragedies in healthcare facilities. First, the power failure in medical centers would be avoided if prior steps were taken to avoid it (NCPS). Power failure can result to grave tragedies in hospitals especially on shutting down powered equipment that are in use. If for instance, a surgery is going on and there is a significant power failure, there might be the risk of losing the patient. FMEA steps to risk management would ensure that such an occurrence is avoided.
Other risk areas identified include MRI incidences, bed rail and veil entrapment and medical gas usage (NCPS). FMEA risk management steps would ensure that there is an ongoing plan aimed at identifying these risks with an aim at reducing or totally preventing them. There will be definition of possible errors that might occur and proper implementation of the action plan defined through FMEA (NCPS).
Preventing sentinel events
A sentinel event is any event that is not anticipated but likely to result in death or even severe physical or psychological harm (Kinnan, 2006). FMEA can have an enormous impact on preventing these sentinel events. Since the aim of FMEA is to identify and avoid process and product errors before they occur (Smith, 2015) those events that could harm the patients, their families or staff in healthcare facilities can be avoided. It is done through identifying possible ways through which failure can occur so that risk management processes can be redesigned with an aim to eliminate the possibility of failure (Smith, 2015).
Smith (2015) identifies several advantages of FMEA. These are:
– The process captures the collective knowledge of a team
– It improves the quality, reliability, and safety of the process
– It is logical, structured process for identifying process areas of concern
– The process reduces process development time and cost
– It documents and tracks risk reduction activities
– It helps to identify critical to quality characteristics
– It provides historical records and establishes baseline
– It helps increase customer satisfaction and safety.
Joint Commission requirements
The Joint Commission advocates for proactive risk assessments in healthcare facilities. FMEA is one such dynamic process for risk management. The Joint Commission requires those in the leadership of the healthcare facility to participate in planning and measuring quality improvement and safety programs (Chatman et al. 2010). The healthcare facility should also use data and information to guide and understand the variation that exists in the performance of processes that support safety and quality of healthcare.
Failure mode and effects analysis process provide an appropriate tool for risk management in healthcare facilities. The fact that it was not initially developed for healthcare services should not prevent risk managers from using it. There is no way a process that is aimed at identifying risks and errors before they happen so it can stop them from happening can be the one to lead to the occurrence of such hazards. It should be noted that the purpose of identifying potential risk areas is so that preventive measures can be put in place. Disregarding the process, therefore, would be the current burying one’s head in the sand waiting for a disaster to happen; an accident that could be avoided if proper safety measures are put in place. It should be the goal of all health care providers to minimize risks as much as they can and, if possible, avoid them altogether. Patients and their families, as well as staff in healthcare facilities, should be assured of their safety in any healthcare facility. They should not be waiting to experience the risk to act.