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Implementing Root Cause Analysis and Actions: Lessons Learned from the Journey

Posted By Administration, Tuesday, May 16, 2017
Updated: Monday, May 15, 2017

In a breakout session at the upcoming NPSF Patient Safety Congress, members of the Ochsner Health System team detail their effort to implement RCA2.

by Joanna Carmona

As Jessica Behrhorst, system director of quality and patient safety at Ochsner Health System admits, Root Cause Analysis and Actions (RCA2) seemed like an intimidating process before they started implementation in their 13-hospital health care system with more than 1,000 employed physicians and a non-employed medical staff of over 2,000. However, after taking the time to learn about RCA2 and teach it to their team, the health care staff at Ochsner is a lot more open to talking about the process, which has now been added to their regular toolkit. But the question is: how did they get there?


At this year’s NPSF Patient Safety Congress, Ms. Behrhorst and Richard D. Guthrie, Jr., MD, CPE, chief quality officer at Ochsner Health System, will describe their journey through the implementation of the new Root Cause Analysis and Actions model and what they’ve learned in the process.


“When we started in 2015, we were very aware that we couldn’t do RCA2 in a vacuum—it had to be part of a larger cultural change,” said Ms. Behrhorst. “We could put the pieces into place, but if we didn’t have a culture of reporting or trust from our staff that we were going to do something with those reports, we knew we wouldn’t be successful.”


One of the first successes they saw was a significant increase in the number of RCAs being performed including some RCAs on good catches that they may not have done in the past. For example, the team at Ochsner had seen several events where surgical equipment was coming back with bioburden. The equipment never touched or harmed a patient and was sent to get reprocessed, but staff started reporting it, so they used the sterilization process for the RCA2. The team had found enough risk by using the risk-based prioritization matrix that they thought a change in the process was necessary, allowing them to effect change in an area where a patient could have been harmed. 

Jessica Behrhorst

Richard Guthrie,

chief quality officer,

Ochsner Health System

Jessica Behrhorst

system director

of quality and

patient safety,

Ochsner Health System

Many of the tools Ochsner uses for RCA2 have come directly from the 2015 NPSF report, RCA2: Improving Root Cause Analyses and Actions to Prevent Harm. Ochsner Health System created three distinct presentations based on the report in order to get the health care team up to speed and on board with the complex processes: one was created for leaders in the RCA2 team, another is specifically for team member briefings, and one holds the electronic version of the tools from the RCA2 report. 

Not only has implementing RCA2 proven to be successful within their own system but it has also become a way to share events and experiences with other facilities. Every month, Ochsner hosts a system quality meeting that includes chief nursing officers from across the system, their vice president of medical affairs, and performance improvement and pharmacy leaders. In that meeting, participants started sharing RCA events and the findings from those RCAs. As a result, teams started learning a lot from the sharing, particularly in instances when they found out that other facilities had faced similar events and could share tools to help mitigate the problem. The lasting effect was helping systems recognize that they are not operating in silos.While some areas of health care may fall into the ultra-safe category, where the goal is to avoid risk altogether, other areas may be categorized by the need to manage or mitigate risk.

In the spirit of not operating in silos, Session 301 will share lessons learned from the two years they have implemented RCA2, so that others may learn from their challenges and successes. 

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Do you have any lessons learned to share from implementing RCA2 in your institution? Comment on this post below. Note: to post a comment you must be logged in. Register or log in.

Joanna Carmona is communications coordinator at the National Patient Safety Foundation at Institute for Healthcare Improvement. Contact her at

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Tags:  2017 Patient Safety Congress  RCA 

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