Failure Modes and Effects Analysis (FMEA): Comparison of Five Medication Dispensing Scenarios

​Institute for Healthcare Improvement
Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA

Failure Modes and Effects Analysis (FMEA) of five common medication dispensing scenarios can help teams identify opportunities for improvement and highlight the different risks associated with the different scenarios. Because most hospitals have dispensing systems that resemble one of these five scenarios, teams can use this tool to help identify failure modes and causes and assign appropriate risk scores in the course of their own FMEAs.



The Institute for Healthcare Improvement’s Idealized Design of Medication Systems (IDMS) team reviewed medication-dispensing processes commonly used in hospitals and identified five typical scenarios. Most hospital dispensing systems fit into one of these scenarios, at least partially. In order to demonstrate how FMEA can help identify opportunities for improvement, the team identified seven critical steps that usually occur in a dispensing process and analyzed these seven steps across the five scenarios. For each scenario, the team reviewed the steps for failure modes and assigned a Risk Priority Number (RPN) to each step.



See the Failure Modes and Effects Analysis Tool.

Review the five medication-dispensing scenarios and determine if one is similar to the dispensing process in your organization. If it is, use that scenario as a reference in developing an FMEA for your own organization’s dispensing system. It is important that you review the actual steps in your own process for a thorough FMEA, using this tool as a reference only. No organization can adopt one of these scenarios "as is" for an FMEA.


Related Measures
Risk Priority Number (from Failure Modes and Effects Analysis)


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