Background and Objectives:
While root cause analysis (RCA) is used to analyze medical errors with a systems approach, evidence demonstrating its effectiveness in reducing patient harm remains sparse. The heterogeneity of the RCA methodology at different health care organizations has posed challenges to studying its value. The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has an established and standardized RCA approach, making it an ideal context to study RCA's impact. This review assessed whether implemented interventions recommended by RCAs were effective in mitigating preventable adverse events at the VA.
PubMed, Web of Science, CINAHL and Business Source were searched for studies on RCAs performed at the VA that evaluated effectiveness of interventions and were published between 2010 and 2020. The Appraisal Tool for Cross-sectional Studies (AXIS) was used to assess bias of bias.
The majority of studies eliminated during our eligibility process reported on RCAs without attention to their specific impact on patient safety. Ten retrospective studies met inclusion criteria and were part of the final review. Studies were grouped into adverse events related to incorrect surgical/invasive procedures, suicides, falls with injury, and all-cause adverse events. Six studies reported on effectiveness by demonstrating quantitative changes in adverse events over time or by location following a specific intervention. Four studies reported on the effectiveness of implemented interventions using a facility-based rating of “much better” or “better.”
Of the studies included in this review, all reported improvements following interventions implemented after RCAs, but with variability in study definitions and methodology to assess effectiveness. Increased reporting of outcomes following RCAs, with an emphasis on quantitative patient-related outcome measures, is needed to demonstrate the impact and value of the RCA.