Developing a Comprehensive Model of Intensive Care Unit Processes: Concept of Operations

Mark Romig, Steven P. Tropello, Cindy Dwyer, Rhonda M. Wyskiel, Alan Ravitz, John Benson, Michael A. Gropper, Peter J. Pronovost, Adam Sapirstein

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Objectives This study aimed to use a systems engineering approach to improve performance and stakeholder engagement in the intensive care unit to reduce several different patient harms. Methods We developed a conceptual framework or concept of operations (ConOps) to analyze different types of harm that included 4 steps as follows: risk assessment, appropriate therapies, monitoring and feedback, as well as patient and family communications. This framework used a transdisciplinary approach to inventory the tasks and work flows required to eliminate 7 common types of harm experienced by patients in the intensive care unit. The inventory gathered both implicit and explicit information about how the system works or should work and converted the information into a detailed specification that clinicians could understand and use. Prototype ConOps to Eliminate Harm Using the ConOps document, we created highly detailed work flow models to reduce harm and offer an example of its application to deep venous thrombosis. In the deep venous thrombosis model, we identified tasks that were synergistic across different types of harm. We will use a system of systems approach to integrate the variety of subsystems and coordinate processes across multiple types of harm to reduce the duplication of tasks. Through this process, we expect to improve efficiency and demonstrate synergistic interactions that ultimately can be applied across the spectrum of potential patient harms and patient locations. Conclusions Engineering health care to be highly reliable will first require an understanding of the processes and work flows that comprise patient care. The ConOps strategy provided a framework for building complex systems to reduce patient harm.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)187-192
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of patient safety
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 1 2018


  • delivery of health care
  • health care quality
  • intensive care units
  • systems engineering

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Leadership and Management
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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