Matthew Icenroad

Share this post

Jan 6, 2022

The Delphi Technique is a systematic and qualitative forecasting method involving the collection of opinions from a group of experts through several rounds of blind questioning. Using this technique, experts analyze, compile, reengage and come to a common understanding about a specific topic or problem. In our last blog post, we explored the benefits of healthcare organizations using the Delphi technique to complete the Kaiser Permanente Hazard Vulnerability Assessment (HVA) tool. In this post, we will further explore the Delphi Technique, its functions and how it can be utilized to complete a hazard vulnerability assessment.

Appoint a Facilitator

The Delphi Technique requires that a non-biased facilitator be selected to guide and manage the group throughout the process of completing the HVA and risk assessment. Though this person does not need to be trained as a facilitator, the individual should be knowledgeable in the Delphi Technique and the necessary steps forward. Appointing the Emergency Manager (or a person with a similar role) as the facilitator can be beneficial as this removes their opinion and potential influence from the process and allows participants to focus primarily on their own thoughts regarding the problem at hand.

Assemble a Panel of Experts

The first formal step of the Delphi Technique is assembling your panel of experts. The selection of experts should be based on the problem you are trying to solve or the hazards facing your organization. Moreover, individuals on this panel should be identified as subject matter experts and not necessarily the leadership of these departments.

Many experts may be identified through emergency management, environment of care and other committees throughout your organization. Other specialties, such as plant operations, safety and security, and patient and clinical operations, may also add significant value to the process. External partners (e.g., emergency services and local emergency managers) can help build community resiliency and assist with the process.

The Process: Cascading Questions

With the Delphi Technique, expert panelists explore the problem at hand through a series of curated questions. Traditionally, the Delphi Technique is designed for panelists not to be in the same room as one another and to complete a questionnaire or interview with the facilitator privately. This approach removes any bias or unintentional persuasion by other panelists.

At Jensen Hughes, we like to start the process with two questions: "Can you explain the purpose of the Hazard Vulnerability Analysis" and "why are we conducting this analysis?" These initial questions "prime the pump" and help the facilitator better understand the individual's comprehension of the HVA process and its purpose. A series of questions can then be developed based on the group’s common consensus for defining HVA and risk assessment scoring.

We explore the use of the Delphi Technique with the panel experts throughout the process. This modification decreases the time commitment involved in the HVA risk assessment by utilizing the entire group to help analyze the findings and come to a final consensus. This "mini" Delphi Technique is formed around the Discuss-Question-Decide method.

Furthermore, questions can focus on the panelists’ particular hazard expertise or potential threats faced by the organization. Questions should also continue to be centered around the specific hazard vulnerability assessment tool your organization is utilizing and dive into initial queries to further understand each panelist's thoughts on probability, mitigation, response, and associated risk.

Collect, Analyze, Compile and Repeat

Following each set of questions, the facilitator analyzes expert opinions and compiles common findings to help formulate additional questions. These questions will go back to the experts to further explore the problem. Questions will often generate both quantitative and qualitative information which are critical to building the story behind the questions being asked.

This process is repeated until the expert panelists come to a consensus about the questions. For a hazard vulnerability analysis, that could involve developing a common understanding of the probability of a specific hazard, entire risk matrix or task at hand.

The Delphi Technique should not replace hazard research for an organization. Discovering data points of your community's risk for specific hazards, your building's infrastructure related to hazards and how your emergency management partners in the area understand their risk are all foundational elements to any risk assessment.

In our next blog entry, we will explore historic HVA and risk assessment data from our partners to better understand the top hazards identified in 2021 and compare this to the events that actually occurred.

To stay up-to-date on our Hazard Vulnerability Analysis series, read our previous blog in this series: “Hazard Vulnerability Analysis In Healthcare: Achieving Accuracy In Our Assessments.”