Issue: 2020 > December > original article

A healthcare failure mode and effect analysis to optimise the process of blood culture performance

F.V. van Daalen, M. Smeulers, E.J.H. Bartels, F. Holleman, C.E. Visser, S.E. Geerlings
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Background: Blood cultures are essential diagnostic tools to identify pathogens in systemic infections. However, logistics of blood culture performance is often suboptimal. This study analyses the pre-analytic phase of blood culture processing through different types of risk assessments.
Methods: We performed direct observations to gain in-depth knowledge of the root causes of suboptimal blood culture performance. These findings were summarised in a Bow-Tie chart. We then utilised a healthcare failure mode and effect analysis to prioritise failures per step in the process and to organise improvement activities. Finally, improvement actions were planned.
Results: Not obtaining a second set of blood cultures in the logistics of blood culture performance had the highest priority for action. Several failure modes, including human and system factors, were identified. Improvement actions included training and clinical lessons for nurses in the emergency department, updating hospital search engines to ease identification of relevant protocols, and an evaluation of the workload at the emergency department. Failure modes caused by human factors appear easy to address, however changing human behaviour is challenging.
Conclusions: The analysis provided useful insight into the different steps in the logistics of blood culture performance and facilitated the organisation of actions focused on addressing the most urgent root causes.