What Is Reliability? (Part 1 of 5)

​​Frank Federico, RPh, IHI Executive Director

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Learning Objectives: At the end of this activity, you will be able to:
  • Define reliability.
  • List several examples of reliable designs.
  • Discuss the steps a team should take to create a reliable process or system.
  • Discuss the relationship between autonomy and standard operating procedures.
  • Outline the IHI Reliable Design Methodology.
Description: Reliable processes and systems can reduce defects, increase consistency, and improve patient outcomes. Achieving reliability, however, requires thoughtful planning and execution. In Part 1 of this five-part series, IHI Executive Director Frank Federico, RPh, discusses examples of reliable designs, how teams can create reliable systems, and the components of IHI’s Reliable Design Methodology.
Discussion Questions:
  1. What does reliability mean to you? What examples do you think of when you think of reliable design?
  2. Individual autonomy presents a challenge to making processes reliable. How can you reduce variation while accounting for people’s (patients and/or providers) differences?
  3. Frank mentions the importance of teamwork in increasing the reliability of processes. Why do you think he recommends that people work together on this?
  4. Why are testing and measurement critical to designing a reliable system?
  5. Have you witnessed a “good” outcome result from a “bad” process? Share your experience.
  6. Frank warns us of the dangers of relying too heavily on training, hard work, and policy to create reliable processes and systems. What role do you think these items play and what are their limitations?
  7. What do you think of the IHI Reliable Design Method? Have you ever used it to improve a process? Would you use it?
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