Quality Improvement: Can EHR Boost FMEA Performance?

Can quality improvement be found through the Electronic Health Record (EHR)? Recent studies are showing that EHR can uncover hidden data overlooked in existing Failure Mode and Effects Analysis (FMEA). The FMEA tool is used as a systematic, step-by-step approach to identify and understand all possible failures in a process. The FMEA tool then can be used to prioritize issues so action can be taken to reduce or eliminate failures. This mapping process is assembled through ‘best known’ information, but opportunities can remain hidden from the process, even from the most diligent practitioners. EHR data now provides a window into information that remained hidden from previous FMEA mapping processes.

Quality Improvement With EHR

Researchers used actual patient data and then formed a mock committee to develop a FMEA process map based on that data. The team then compared what was expected to what actually occurred through EHR data. The study showed that 35% of tasks completed by people were not identified in the FMEA map. Even more enlightening was the fact that the actual process had 12 categories of people involved that were not identified as part of the discharge process. The team further found evidence that what was considered one activity on the FMEA were made up of multiple tasks, completed by different people. They were not of the FMEA.

An Untapped Resource

Clearly, EHR uncovers a treasure trove of information that is crucial to the FMEA mapping process. This newly exposed data can shed light on the mysteries sometimes involved with any quality process. The study should encourage Lean Six Sigma practitioners to be exhaustive in their use of the FMEA and draw information in from all potential sources. EHR data can definitely strengthen any FMEA process, as well as many other quality improvement processes.

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