Error Proofing Against Drinking Bad Tap Water at #HIMSS13

Here in New Orleans, there was a problem with the city water today and there’s a 24-hour “boil water” order in effect through tomorrow morning. We could play a good game of the 5 Whys:

  • Why can’t we drink the water? It’s potentially unsafe
  • Why? The water pressure dropped earlier this morning
  • Why? Because there was a power outage
  • Why? Because there was a small fire
  • Why? We don’t know (publicly… yet?)

There was a similar incident that affected the water in October and there was the famous Super Bowl outage. I hope the lights stay on for my HIMSS talk Monday morning!

So, while I’m sure the city is being overly careful, I don’t want to risk being sick for my talk.

I might forget to not drink the water or forget to not brush my teeth with it. So, I’ve placed a bottle of water in my hotel sink as a reminder to not use the tap. It’s probably more effective than telling myself to not forget and it’s probably more effective than posting a warning sign.

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This method worked for me during a similar water problem in Boston back in 2010.

In the spirit of Kaizen (or continuous improvement), I’m happy to publish and share my idea with others!


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Mark Graban's passion is creating a better, safer, more cost effective healthcare system for patients and better workplaces for all. Mark is a consultant, author, and speaker in the "Lean healthcare" methodology. He is author of the Shingo Award-winning books Lean Hospitals and Healthcare Kaizen, as well as The Executive Guide to Healthcare Kaizen. His most recent project is an eBook titled Practicing Lean that benefits the Louise H. Batz Patient Safety Foundation, where Mark is a board member. Mark is also the VP of Improvement & Innovation Services for the technology company KaiNexus.

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