The Utility of Failure Modes and Effects Analysis of Consultations in a Tertiary, Academic, Medical Center

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Failure modes and effects analysis (FMEA) is a tool used to identify potential risks in health care processes. We used the FMEA tool for improving the process of consultation in an academic medical center.


A team of 10 staff members—5 physicians, 2 quality experts, 2 organizational consultants, and 1 nurse—was established. The consultation process steps, from ordering to delivering, were computed. Failure modes were assessed for likelihood of occurrence, detection, and severity. A risk priority number (RPN) was calculated. An interventional plan was designed according to the highest RPNs. Thereafter, we compared the percentage of completed computer-based documented consultations before and after the intervention.


The team identified 3 main categories of failure modes that reached the highest RPNs: initiation of consultation by a junior staff physician without senior approval, failure to document the consultation in the computerized patient registry, and asking for consultation on the telephone. An interventional plan was designed, including meetings to update knowledge of the consultation request process, stressing the importance of approval by a senior physician, training sessions for closing requests in the patient file, and reporting of telephone requests. The number of electronically documented consultation results and recommendations significantly increased (75%) after intervention.


FMEA is an important and efficient tool for improving the consultation process in an academic medical center.

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