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Failure mode and effect analysis (FMEA) of radiotherapy

Rajaram Govindarajan (Rajaram Govindarajan is based at the Department of Operations Management and Innovation, ESADE Business and Law School , Barcelona, Spain)
Mohammed Laeequddin (Mohammed Laeequddin is based at the Symbiosis Institute of Business Management, Hyderabad, India Symbiosis International University , Pune, India)

Emerald Emerging Markets Case Studies

ISSN: 2045-0621

Publication date: 29 November 2020


Learning outcomes

Learning outcomes are as follows: students will discover the importance of process orientation in management; students will determine the root cause of the problem by applying root cause analysis technique; students will identify the failure modes, analyze their effect, score them on a scale and prioritize the corrective action to prevent the failures; students will analyze the processes and propose error-proof system/s; and students will analyze organizational culture and ethical issues.

Case overview/synopsis

Purpose: This case study is intended as a class-exercise, for students to discover the importance of process-orientation in management, analyze the ethical dilemma in health care and to apply quality management techniques, such as five-why, root cause analysis, failure mode and effect analysis (FMEA) and error-proofing, in the management of the health-care and service industry. Design/methodology/approach: A voluntary reporting of a case of “radiation overdose” in a hospital’s radio therapy treatment unit, which led to an ethical dilemma. Consequently, a study was conducted to establish the causes of the incident and to develop a fail-proof system, to avoid recurrence. Findings: After careful analysis of the process-flow and the root causes, 25 potential failure modes were detected and the team had assigned a risk priority number (RPN) for each potential incident, selected the top ten RPNs and developed an error-proofing system to prevent recurrence. Subsequently, the improvement process was carried out for all the 25 potential incidents and a new control mechanism was implemented. The question of ethical dilemma remained unresolved. Research limitations/implications: Ishikawa diagram, FMEA and Poka-Yoke techniques require a multi-disciplinary team with process knowledge in identifying the possible root causes for errors, potential risks and also the possible error-proofing method/s. Besides, these techniques need frank discussions and agreement among team members on the efforts for the development of action plan, implementation and control of the new processes. Practical implications: Students can take the case data to identify root cause analysis and the RPN (RPN = possibility of detection × probability of occurrence × severity), to redesign the protocols, through systematic identification of the deficiencies of the existing protocols. Further, they can recommend quality improvement projects. Faculty can navigate the case session orientation, emphasizing quality management or ethical practices, depending on the course for which the case is selected.

Complexity academic level

MBA or PG Diploma in Management – health-care management, hospital administration, operations management, services operations, total quality management (TQM) and ethics.

Supplementary materials

Teaching Notes are available for educators only.

Subject code

CSS 9: Operations and Logistics.



Govindarajan, R. and Laeequddin, M. (2020), "Failure mode and effect analysis (FMEA) of radiotherapy", Emerald Emerging Markets Case Studies, Vol. 10 No. 4.



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