Quality in Healthcare

Impact Effort Matrix

By Bjørn Andersen, Tom Fagerhaug, and Marti Beltz

The impact effort matrix was designed specifically for the purpose of deciding which of many suggested solutions to implement. It provides answers to the question of which solutions seem easiest to achieve with the most effects.

The steps in constructing an impact effort matrix are:

  1. Retrieve suggested solutions from previous discussions.
  2. Construct an empty diagram with effort required to implement the solution on the horizontal axis and impact of the solution on the vertical axis, and divide it into four quadrants.
  3. Assess effort and impact for each solution. Place the solutions in the diagram according to these assessments. Use a symbol, color, or label to identify each possible solution.
  4. Solutions falling into the upper left-hand quadrant will yield the best return on investments and should be considered first.

Example

Mr. A. Smith was a comatose patient with respirator dependency undergoing an inpatient admission for the treatment of infection at a long-term acute care hospital (LTACH). During his admission, the patient destabilized and suffered cardiac arrest requiring emergency transportation to the hospital system’s acute care facility.

An ambulance service was dispatched to transport the patient stat. The nursing staff photocopied portions of the chart for transport with the patient. Additional portions of the chart were faxed to the acute care facility after the patient had departed the LTACH.

Once at the emergency room, the patient was treated according to his presenting symptoms and the history included in the photocopied chart pages. It was only when the faxed chart materials were received that a nurse recognized that the transported chart copies were for Mr. B. Smith, another LTACH patient on the same unit, and not for Mr. A. Smith. This precipitated a change in treatment (a “near miss”) prior to giving the patient a medication to which he was highly allergic.

The event was investigated, and several proposed solutions surfaced:

  • Create a policy for matching patient ID to chart ID at every point in transfer.
  • Train every employee on patient identification policy.
  • Bar code patient ID bands and charts and match before transport.
  • Implant a radio frequency identification (RFID) tag under the skin of patients and attach to each medical chart for matching at each transfer point.

These were assessed for effort and impact and plotted on the matrix below. Clearly, using bar codes on patient ID bands and charts would be the obvious first option.

Impact Effort Matrix
 

Item # Description
1 Create a policy for matching patient ID to chart ID at every point in transfer
2 Train every employee on patient identification policy
3 Bar code patient ID bands and charts; match before transport
4 Implant a radio frequency identification number (RFID) tag under the skin of patients and attach to each medical chart for matching at each transfer point

Excerpted from Bjørn Andersen, Tom Fagerhaug, and Marti Beltz, Root Cause Analysis and Improvement in the Healthcare Sector: A Step-by-Step Guide (Milwaukee, WI: ASQ Quality Press, 2010), pages 19, 146-147.

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