FMEA Grows Up: Trends in Failure Mode and Effects Analysis

June 1, 2006 | Health System Risk Management


This article originally appeared in the June 2006 Healthcare Hazard Management Monitor (HHMM), a sister publication of the Risk Management Reporter. For more information on HHMM, contact

In 2001, the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO) mandated that accredited healthcare providers institute a process to proactively address errors in the delivery of medical services. As part of that initiative, JCAHO highlighted the use of failure mode and effects analysis (FMEA) as a preferred technique for identifying, prioritizing, and correcting problems. While recognizing the need for a proactive approach such as FMEA, many healthcare professionals were concerned about the complexity and resource-intensive nature of the process. Now, FMEA is coming into its own, as providers find creative ways to use this technique to address long-standing problems.

FMEA projects seem to focus most frequently on medication administration, reduction of patient falls, and communication—some of the most persistently problematic and complex processes in healthcare. Regardless of the FMEA topics chosen, whether selected from in-house data or national trends, healthcare providers are clearly becoming more comfortable using this powerful tool. Experience has shown that an institution that successfully uses FMEA does the following:

In recent interviews, representatives from healthcare institutions across the country shared their observations about the FMEA process. Their experiences...

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