Root Cause Analysis in the Time of COVID-19

Improvement Insights Blog

Root Cause Analysis in the Time of COVID-19

COVID-19 has taken a wrecking ball to retirement homes, meat-packing plants and prisons. You might ask: Why? Why? Why? Why? Why?

“Hi, I’m Jay Arthur, author of “Lean Six Sigma for Hospitals” and QI Macros [software].

“Let me ask you this question [because] I want to talk to you a little bit about root cause analysis: What do retirement homes and slaughterhouses and prisons all have in common? They all share a common eating area. With the latest things about COVID-19 really spiraling out of control in those environments, I’m guessing that’s probably where it’s happening. My mom’s retirement home had a room that was about 20 by 30 and there were tables packed in everywhere, and three times a day the “inmates” would all come down from their apartments and have lunch down there. My mom loved to talk to everybody. She talked to this group in the morning, that group at lunch, and that group in the evening and so she would have been a super spreader, I suspect, if she had COVID.

“If you look at it, what is it? It’s the proximity, right? And it probably came in either with the food or the kitchen staff, or it came in with people who were servers who served them (although this is not true in other locations). I’m guessing that these situations are the root cause, right? We cluster people together, they talk and they share bugs and then they go.

“I remember one time I think somebody at “the joint” (as my mom would call it) got the flu. Well, once they had somebody with the flu, they just quarantined everybody and had meals delivered to them until they were certain that no other cases of flu had developed. I’m guessing that’s probably what’s happening in many of the retirement homes around the nation. If I think back to it when all this was starting up, I’m not sure that I would have been prescient enough if my mom was still alive to go out and drag her home with me to get her out of that environment where that happened all the time. I’m not sure I’d have been smart enough to do that, but that’s root cause analysis, right? What’s the biggest problem? Where does it occur? Right? A lot of these illnesses and deaths are in retirement homes across the first world countries, and so what are we doing? I think we need to be more reactive and more responsive and faster about all that, and unfortunately I’m guessing we’re a little bit behind the curve.

“But that’s root cause analysis: What are the common patterns? Where’s the Pareto principle? A lot of this is happening in these places where people get together and eat lunch, breakfast, and dinner together.

“So that’s my Improvement Insight for this week. Let’s go out and make a hassle-free America, a disease-free America. Let’s go out and improve something this week. “