Implementing a human factors approach to RCA2 : Tools, processes and strategies

J Healthc Risk Manag. 2021 Jul;41(1):31-46. doi: 10.1002/jhrm.21454. Epub 2020 Dec 19.


Root Cause Analysis and Action (RCA2 ) guidelines offer fundamental improvements to traditional RCA. Yet, these guidelines lack robust methods to support a human factors analysis of patient harm events and development of systems-level interventions. We recently integrated a complement of human factors tools into the RCA2 process to address this gap. These tools include the Human Factors Analysis and Classification System (HFACS), the Human Factors Intervention Matrix (HFIX), and a multiple-criterion decision tool called FACES, for selecting effective HFIX solutions. We describe each of these tools and illustrate how they can be integrated into RCA2 to create a robust human factors RCA process called HFACS-RCA2 . We also present qualitative results from an 18-month implementation study within a large academic health center. Results demonstrate how HFACS-RCA2 can foster a more comprehensive, human factors analysis of serious patient harm events and the identification of broader system interventions. Following HFACS-RCA2 implementation, RCA team members (risk managers and quality improvement advisors) also experienced greater satisfaction in their work, leadership gained more trust in RCA findings and recommendations, and the transparency of the RCA process increased. Effective strategies for overcoming implementation barriers, including changes in roles, responsibilities and workload will also be presented.

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Quality Improvement*
  • Root Cause Analysis*
  • Toxins, Biological


  • RCA II
  • Toxins, Biological