What Triggers a Root Cause Analysis (RCA) & What Should, but Doesn’t? Part II-What Health Care Professionals & Patient Advocates Need to Know

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In Part I of this series on Root Cause Analysis (RCA) leading expert, Robert Latino,  CEO of Reliability Center Inc. in Hopewell, Va shared his preferred definition of RCA and explained the importance of asking ‘HOW’ rather than ‘WHY’ a medical error occurred.  (This point is crucial-see Part I!)

In Part II, Bob helps us to understand when RCAs are performed typically and what really good opportunities exist for us to consider for using RCA proactively.  Later in the series he’ll tell us about “Patient-Engaged RCA” which can be helpful for patients/families who have been victims of medical errors.

 What triggers an RCA to be done?

[Bob Latino] – Usually there are regulatory triggers that determine the threshold for conducting RCA. Some common triggers are Sentinel Events and Never Events.  Unfortunately, normally something really bad has to happen before we apply RCA.  This is why current regulations foster only the reactive use of RCA.  What about all the unacceptable risks identified in an  failure modes and effects analysis (FMEA)  or all the chronic failures that occur every shift of every day that do not rise to the severity of a Sentinel Event?

We should be doing RCA proactively to avoid the need for its reactive use. Click To Tweet

We should be doing RCA proactively to avoid the need for its reactive use.  However, since the proactive use of RCA is not REQUIRED, most don’t do it.  We should do it because ‘it is the right thing to do’ not because somebody makes us do it.

Can You Do an RCA on Something Bad that Might Happen?

[Bob Latino] – Contrary to popular belief, you can do an RCA on an unacceptable risk.  The logic tree, a step by step question and answer process that leads to information about the cause(s) of an error,  would start with the EVENT of ‘Unacceptable Risk of XXX’.  For instance, a nurse notes that discontinued narcotic medication is in the med cart and sees this as a potential error waiting to happen.  We could take this potential risk of error and ask ourselves ‘How Could’ this risk be so high? This way, we start to uncover the reasons BEFORE an accident happens.  Then we can take actions to reduce the risk in an effort to ensure the risk does not materialize (no need for reactive RCA after bad consequences are realized).  The same goes for doing RCA on high frequency, low impact failures or chronic failures.

Give Us an Example of a Problem Where RCA is not Required, but Would be Helpful

[Bob Latino] – To make my point about the impact of chronic failures that usually go under the radar, we completed an analysis which demonstrated the cost of blood redraws in a single hospital’s ED (225 bed acute care facility) was over $3,000.000/yr.  This was found by calculating the average cost of a redraw (of $300) x the frequency of occurrence (which was 10,000 times per year).  Does the TJC make you do RCA on redraws…NO.  Should you do RCA on redraws….YES!  To learn more about the Blood Redraw Case see:  http://www.reliability.com/oa.html.

Follow this series on www.confidentvoices.com where Bob will help us to understand:

  • Part I-Root Cause Analysis (RCA):  What is it and Does the Definition We Use Matter to Patient Safety?
  • Part II-What Triggers an RCA to be done?
  • Part III-Are there different ways of doing one?  What makes one better or more reliable than another?
  • Part IV-What is Patient-Engaged RCA?
  • Part V-What Role do Nurses have?  Patient Advocates?

In the meantime, listen to  Bob speak about RCA! And if you have questions, please post in a comment or email beth@bethboynton.com.


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One Response to What Triggers a Root Cause Analysis (RCA) & What Should, but Doesn’t? Part II-What Health Care Professionals & Patient Advocates Need to Know

  1. Meg says:

    ….it’s this trivializing..this making everything oversimplified…this arrogant thinking..that doesn’t let others ask for help; ask for a moment to finish what they’re doing before doing something else…almost as if…anything that may appear like we need help is either something we’re not supposed to be doing ……..or ……… worse….

    like we’re in some sort of competition for perfection with ourselves or others and anything requiring help or a moment to analyze is never permitted in our culture? most especially in health care.

    I work with medical assistants who will fumble their way through figuring out a medication dose to be given IM when they are needing to figure quantity such as mgm vs cc and can’t do the math (more than likely a subject they weren’t taught in MA school) they can’t do the necessary math to figure drug dose but have difficulty asking for help (which to me is very dangerous)

What are your thoughts?