Original Research

Advancing Order Set Design

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Failure Mode and Effects Analysis

Failure mode and effects analysis (FMEA) is “a structured way to identify and address potential problems, or failures and their resulting effects on the system or process before an adverse event occurs.”9 The benefit of an order set must be weighed against the risk during development. FMEA should be applied during order set design to assess and limit risk just as with any other clinical care process.

FMEA examines both level of risk and frequency of risk occurrence associated with a new proposed process. For example, let’s evaluate an order set designed for pain control after surgery that consists of multiple high-risk opioids along with antihistamine medications for as-needed itch relief (a non-life-threatening adverse event (AE) of opioids well known by the medical community). An interdisciplinary FMEA team consisting of subject matter experts may examine how the process should flow in step-by-step detail and then discuss the benefit of a process and risk for potential error. A FMEA team would then analyze what could go wrong with each part of the process and assign a level of risk and risk frequency for various steps in the process, and then decide that certain steps should be modified or eliminated. Perhaps after FMEA, a facility might conclude that the risk of serious complications is high when you combine opioid use with antihistamine medications. The facility could decide to remove antihistamine medications from an order set if it is determined that risks outweigh benefits. While a root cause analysis might identify the cause of an AE after order set use, these situations can be prevented with FMEA.

When applying FMEA to Figure 1, while bupropion is known as an evidence-based oral tobacco cessation option, there is the possibility that bupropion could be inadvertently prescribed from the order set in a hospitalized patient with alcohol withdrawal and withdrawal seizure history. These potentially dangerous situations can be avoided with FMEA. Thus, although bupropion may be evidence-based for NRT, decisions regarding order set design using EBM alone are insufficient.

The practitioner must consider possible unintended consequences within order sets and target treatment options to the appropriate setting and audience. Although Figure 1 may appear to be more inclusive, the interdisciplinary committee designing the inpatient NRT order set felt there was heightened risk with introducing bupropion in Figure 1 and decided the risk would be lowered by removing bupropion from the redesigned NRT order set (Figure 2). In addition to the goal of balancing availability of NRT options with acceptable risk, Figure 2 also focused on building an NRT order set most applicable to the inpatient setting.

Including Evidence-Based Practices

EBM has become a routine part of clinical decision making. Therefore, including EBM in order set design is vital. EBM for NRT has demonstrated that combination therapy is more effective than is monotherapy to help tobacco users quit. Incremental doses of NRT are recommended for patients who use tobacco more frequently.10

As shown in Figures 1 and 2, both order set designs incorporate EBM for NRT. Although the importance of implementing EBM is evident, critical factors, such as HFE and FMEA make a difference with well-designed order sets.

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