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4 Case Studies in Transformation Through Systems Engineering INTRODUCTION Creative approaches are necessary to meet the Roundtable’s goal that “by the year 2020, 90 percent of clinical decisions will be supported by ac- curate, timely, and up-to-date clinical information and will reflect the best available evidence.” In this section of the workshop, guidance was solicited from organizations both within and outside health care that have achieved successful elements of transformation. Presenters provided accounts of their achievements and offered insights into their organization’s transformation through approaches to systems engineering. The aim was to stimulate the sense of what might be possible in health care through the lenses of three industries in particular: airlines, manufacturing, and health care. For practitioners seeking to reform various aspects of health care, good models of the applications of principles, tools, and practices from systems engineering can be found in both business settings and healthcare systems. Four veterans of such work described their experiences to the workshop audience, discussing how complex enterprises have successfully developed systems-oriented procedures and integrated a systems orientation into practice. The session investigated how systems engineering has been successfully applied in the three industries and sought to understand which lessons might be applied to the transformation of the sociologically and technologically complex healthcare sector. Implicit in the discussions was the importance of bold leadership in driving reform, the imperative of hav- ing clarity of mission, the merits of developing strong metrics and sharing results widely, and the value of investing in people. 11

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12 ENGINEERING A LEARNING HEALTHCARE SYSTEM John J. Nance, founding member of the National Patient Safety Foun- dation, reported on a rich set of systems reforms that has been achieved by the aviation industry. Nance highlighted strategies that go beyond well- honed aviation practices, such as checklists and methodologies in crew resource management (CRM), which could be of benefit to healthcare systems. He described how systems engineering has been applied in so- phisticated feedback systems for reporting and learning from mechanical problems, the development of robust computerized processes for many as- pects of daily operations, and standardization that has been applied widely across airline operations. He also described systems that have been built around the assumption that human beings can never be perfect, and thus they are designed to be capable of absorbing anticipated levels of human failure. The discussion also touched on the importance of applying systems thinking to training, on the value of improved communication among staff at all levels, on the usefulness of minimization of variables, and on how systems interact. To demonstrate how systems thinking can help effect deep-set, mean- ingful, and lasting organizational change, Earnest J. Edwards, formerly of Alcoa, Inc., focused on improvements in a specific business practice, the financial close process. Detailing how a similar change effort was ap- plied successfully in a leading corporation, a federal government agency, and a community hospital, Edwards demonstrated how systems thinking can help organizations lower costs, improve quality, and leverage systems to yield better information for use in decision making. Moreover, he sug- gested, undertaking the process of change can itself help staff learn how to become solution-oriented change agents with a focus on the future—and thus become more vital partners in the enterprise, with an expanded role in strategic decisions. Kenneth W. Kizer, chair of Medsphere Systems Corporation, began by describing the condition of the veterans healthcare system in the early 1990s. Managed by the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) in the U.S. Depart- ment of Veterans Affairs (VA), it was considered inefficient and indifferent to patient needs. Kizer described how, through a concerted reengineering effort, the VA healthcare system was transformed into a model healthcare provider. Kizer described how the VA overhauled its accountable manage- ment structure and control system, integrated and coordinated patient ser- vices across the continuum of care, improved and standardized the quality of care, improved information management, and aligned the system’s finances with desired outcomes. Kizer suggested that similar interventions could help other healthcare enterprises achieve new levels of success. In the final presentation described in this chapter, David B. Pryor, chief medical officer of Ascension Health, discussed the clinical transformation of Ascension, which is the largest not-for-profit delivery system in the United

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1 TRANSFORMATION THROUGH SYSTEMS ENGINEERING States and the third largest system overall after the VA and the Hospital Corporation of America. Pryor described Ascension Health’s “Call to Ac- tion,” a program designed to reduce preventable injuries or deaths as well as to achieve certain other measurable goals. Pryor outlined a systems pro- cess for defining challenges, strategizing opportunities, focusing on goals, implementing action plans, and testing and measuring results that allowed Ascension Health to reach its goals. Pryor said that through this process Ascension Health was able to simultaneously realize outstanding clinical outcomes, achieve promising trends in financial outcomes, and develop new metrics that influence quality across its entire system. AIRLINE SAFETY John J. Nance, J.D., National Patient Safety Foundation, American Medical Association Although it would be hyperbole to say that the solution to much of what troubles American health care can be found in engineering disciplines, I truly believe that engineering and the engineering community can provide unprecedented expertise and contribute substantially, if not pivotally, to the national task of creating order out of the chaos that characterizes American health care today. This is not to demean health care. I am merely being frank about the reality that a cottage industry based on individual physi- cian autonomy has grown to unmanageable proportions on a thoroughly inadequate organizational base. A century ago, hospitals were few and far between, and the remarkable advances in medicine and equipment achieved since that time have essentially been forced to fit the archaic mold that was established in that period. And the system clearly is not working in terms of either the reliable and safe delivery of the best care or the best value. Engineering philosophies, approaches, and discipline are not a cure-all, but where medicine has been unable to formulate a structural approach to the problem through traditional methodologies, new thinking from external disciplines may be of great benefit. American health care needs to find a balance between two extremes. At one end of the spectrum is the clearly inadequate 19th century model of the individual doctor and the hospital as a sort of market that provides beds, nurses, and lights. At the other end is a rigid, mechanized approach to health care whereby autonomy is limited to small differences in the tech- niques physicians may use within the context of inflexible procedures and full employment directly by healthcare providers. Obviously, neither ex- treme can take advantage of both the remarkable advances in science-based medicine and the dexterity, intellect, and analytical abilities of individual physicians (as well as the human caring−based attention of nurses as the

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1 ENGINEERING A LEARNING HEALTHCARE SYSTEM bedside eyes and ears of the physician). One extreme needs no engineering, while the other would overuse both systems engineering and the lessons from such fields as airline safety. A careful balance is needed that preserves the humanity and individual expertise of healthcare practitioners while providing an efficient and workable structure that serves the primary goal of doing the best possible job for patients and having physicians enjoy their profession. These introductory points are important in any discussion that looks beyond medicine for answers, and this is especially true with respect to the applicable lessons from airline and aviation safety. The application of those lessons, as well as a brief look at how U.S. airlines have achieved a nearly perfect safety record, requires a basic understanding of the strategy employed and not just the tactical details of individual training programs and methods. My professional background melds aviation and medicine and includes 18 years of experience in translating to health care the surprising human lessons we were forced to learn in the aviation industry (along with lessons from other fields such as nuclear power generation). In summary, by the late 1970s, aviation had reached the limits of its ability to improve safety significantly through merely mechanical and procedural means, and it was only by applying lessons from the human factors and performance disci- plines that the airline industry was able to take the final step toward zero accidents and incidents. In many ways this nearly unnoticed transition can be characterized as moving from a reliance on the principles of mechanical and aeronautical engineering to an acceptance of the principles and benefits of human sys- tems engineering. The sometimes difficult transformation from a myopic focus on mechanical reliability to a focus on overall systemic reliability was guided at every step by the discipline engineering brought to bear in helping the airlines accept the realities of the potential for human failure and the resulting ability of airline safety leaders to impose better order and function. In other words, we finally had to stop believing that the only bulwark against accidents was the fine-tuning of our machines and black boxes and admit that, when even the finest airplanes could be flown into a mountain by a well-trained but confused and distracted aircrew, the failure modes of the human being would have to be addressed. The important point for the present discussion is that the same elements of transition are needed in American health care—and even more dramatically so because the procedural/mechanical side and the human systems engineering side of health care are equally undeveloped and undisciplined. To help explain why this is the case, let me focus on the experience of aviation. For perhaps 10 years now, there has been a growing realization that aviation’s experience in transitioning from a high-risk industry to a low-

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1 TRANSFORMATION THROUGH SYSTEMS ENGINEERING risk, high-reliability industry has some applicability to American health care. The problem has been oversimplification in translating that message. People in both aviation and medicine have believed that the best lessons the aviation industry can offer to health care are simply a few specific programs and methods, such as CRM courses and checklist procedures.1 The assumption was that such tactical solutions could be transferred intact to the medical arena and yield the same dramatic improvement they achieved in aviation. In reality, while the principles of each of those tactical measures can benefit medicine if properly translated and adjusted for the realities and complexities of medical practice and application, a far richer body of lessons and benefits can be derived from aviation’s experience. Aviation, of course, is inherently no smarter about preventing disasters than is health care. But the fact that our failures were both very public and very frightening to our future customers and the fact that our death tolls reached large numbers with each major accident meant we had to address the last remaining unsolved cause of airline accidents—human mistakes— decades before health care had to face that same issue. We simply did not have the luxury of waiting for improvements to evolve. We had to figure out why dedicated, intelligent, and well-meaning air crews continued to fly mechanically perfect airliners into the ground or otherwise cause horrible accidents—so-called “pilot error” accidents. In truth, the safety challenges the airline industry faced through the 1970s were perplexing. We had enjoyed great progress in airline safety from the dawn of commercial aviation in the late 1920s through the dawn of the jet age in the 1960s and into the 1970s. In fact, the curve of major accidents plotted against time had been declining at a remarkable rate as the machines were greatly improved, instrument flying became sophisticated, and the new jet engines introduced far greater reliability. That descending curve also represented greatly decreasing passenger fatalities, and while our metrics left something to be desired, we clearly improved by many orders of magnitude over time as mechanical failures triggering accidents became increasingly rare. Boeing, McDonnell Douglas, Convair, and later Airbus all learned how to build significant redundancy into their products, helping to pioneer the principle that no single or even dual failure of any component should ever result in the loss of control of an airplane. In fact, one of the earliest instances of human factors engineering was the decision, based on an understanding of the human propensity for failure, to have at 1 CRM is a discipline that recognizes that no one leader, captain, or physician is capable of perfection. Therefore, the best defense against disaster due to human error is to utilize the professional talent and cognitive abilities of all participants through collegial communication that can be codified, taught, and required.

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1 ENGINEERING A LEARNING HEALTHCARE SYSTEM least two pilots in each commercial cockpit specifically to provide a human backup system. For the most part, the positive safety trends—albeit mostly mechanically based—continued into the 1980s and 1990s. With only a few exceptions—a faulty cargo-door latching mechanism (United 811, 1989, south of Honolulu); a destroyed engine and flight control system in a United DC-10 flight ending in Sioux City, Iowa, in July of the same year; the loss of the upper forward fuselage of a highly corroded Boeing 737 belonging to Aloha Airlines south of Maui in 1986; and the loss of TWA 800 due to a fuel tank explosion years later near Moriches, New York—by and large it had become a rule that when an airliner was destroyed, with or without loss of life, the primary contributing cause was human error. Indeed, records show that this was true in more than 90 percent of cases. Even the term “pilot error” (which implies a professional discretionary mistake such as making a conscious decision to violate the rules, with catastrophic results) was criticized as inadequate because being human inevitably implies being able to make errors that sometimes cause accidents. By the 1970s, the trend curve for major airline accidents, especially in the United States, had flattened and was lying on average just a few points above zero. But it refused to descend to zero. In other words, while airline flying had become remarkably safe and reliable, especially with respect to mechanical accidents, no amount of industry effort, Federal Aviation Ad- ministration (FAA) pressure, or pilot training could completely eliminate human-caused disasters, and no accelerated application of the traditional engineering solutions appeared to improve the situation. In the 1980s, however, a true revolution, quiet and unnoticed, began to change the equation. As a direct result, 16 years later the airline accident death rate for U.S. airlines finally hit bottom and remained at 0 for nearly 5 years—a stunning achievement. Although this 5-year 0-accident record ended with a crash in 2006 in Lexington, Kentucky, the passenger death rate in U.S. service has remained flat since then (Levin, 2009). This achieve- ment was due to a recognition of the fact that aviation is a human system and that humans will never be able to operate without making mistakes. In other words, the path to perfect safety was through the process of building a system that fully expected and was ready to absorb human mistakes. The engineering-based disciplines that evolved in the airline business (and avia- tion in general) from that pivotal recognition are loosely known as human factors engineering, but they include systems engineering as well and bor- row heavily from sociology, physiology, and behavioral science. Before the industry realized in the early 1980s that it had never really addressed human failure (except to ineffectually order humans not to fail), there was a growing silence about the prospects of ever fully eliminating passenger deaths and disasters. It was quietly acknowledged that a certain number of accidents might be the cost of doing business, that accidents

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1 TRANSFORMATION THROUGH SYSTEMS ENGINEERING might be inevitable in a system that each day sent as many as 3,000 flights around the country and carried many tens of millions of passengers each year. Moreover, as the airlines came under tremendous cost pressure during the early 1980s because of deregulation and cut-rate competition, estab- lished airlines began looking desperately at ways of reducing costs. In that environment, concern grew that massive new investments in maintenance, training, and electronics would be needed to realize even an incremental improvement in safety (given that there were already so few crashes). This situation did little to generate enthusiasm for expanding safety measures or investing in new disciplines such as CRM (which was in its infancy at United at the time). The heavy price of small improvement, in other words, furthered the idea that a small number of accidents might have to be ac- cepted as the cost of having an airline system. Of course, this was not an illogical argument at that time. In fact, one major airline executive rather infamously replied to the question of why his airline did not spend millions to establish a safety department by saying: “We don’t need one. That’s why we have insurance.” Before the emergence of human factors in the 1980s, the airlines had successfully applied systems engineering principles in many ways (some- times without labeling them correctly) to develop high levels of mechanical and operational reliability. Across the industry, we had developed sophis- ticated feedback systems for learning rapidly about mechanical problems, systems that included the so-called Airworthiness Directives issued by the FAA (the strongest type of legal directive the FAA can issue to effect me- chanical changes), as well as less urgent service bulletins transmitted to the entire commercial aviation industry within and outside the United States. In addition, there was a broad range of methods by which the airlines could communicate with each other, the FAA, and the National Transportation Safety Board, including a number of task forces and special industry groups working voluntarily with the government on problems of special concern (e.g., the revelations in the late 1980s about the susceptibility of aircraft structures to accelerated corrosion and fatigue in high-salt environments following the Aloha accident of 1986). To a certain extent, those systems have all now matured (along with individual reporting systems such as the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s Aviation Safety Reporting System), to the point that any significant problem discovered in commercial aviation can be fully discussed and communicated to every operator world- wide within hours. Aviation, in other words, worked hard to learn serious lessons about maintenance and training once the FAA pushed for airline safety by working with, instead of against, the industry. In the same period of the 1970s through the 1990s, under Part 25 of the Federal Aviation Regulations (14 Code of Federal Regulations 25), the ma- jor airline manufacturers developed a level of redundancy in their designs

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18 ENGINEERING A LEARNING HEALTHCARE SYSTEM such that the anticipated failure rates of most of aircraft and components had a long string of zeros to the right of the decimal point before a non- zero digit appeared. Through backup systems and preventive maintenance (pulling and replacing or overhauling components long before their first anticipated failure range), the so-called “dispatch reliability” of airliners exceeded the most optimistic expectations. In addition, airlines developed processes for the computerized tracking of maintenance, parts, and all oper- ational elements—including crew scheduling, reservations, ship scheduling, dispatch, and coordination of all functions—optimizing the rapidly devel- oping capabilities of computers. The airlines achieved computer-assisted standardization of nearly everything done in the maintenance hangars, in the cockpit, and even in operations. All of these elements were honed continuously because they were the most cost-effective methods of doing business. Airlines realized that in a heavily competitive environment, they simply could not afford the type of public relations catastrophe that any major accident would cause. The costs to an airline’s reputation would be far beyond the direct costs of any such accident. All of the mechanical and computerized systems were largely in place by the end of the 1970s, but, as previously noted, crashes still happened, usually because of human failure. In 1982 an Air Florida Boeing 737 crashed on takeoff in a snowstorm in Washington, DC, killing all but five of those aboard, who were rescued from the icy Potomac River. There was nothing wrong with the airplane. In 1985, an Arrow Air flight chartered to bring U.S. troops from the Middle East to Kentucky crashed in Gander, Newfoundland, killing all 256 people aboard. Although there is still con- troversy about that crash, it was attributed to the crew’s departing with ice on the wings—again, there was nothing mechanically wrong with the air- plane. A Northwest Airlines plane crashed in Romulus, Michigan, in 1987 because of the pilot’s failure to extend the flaps, and all but one died. A year later, a Delta flight at Dallas–Fort Worth Airport also tried to take off with the flaps up and crashed, killing 17 people. The flight crew survived, and they were astounded at the National Transportation Safety Board’s finding that all three of them had missed clear signs that the flaps had not been extended. Three highly trained, highly qualified human beings had caused a major accident, and all three had “seen”—and were willing to swear they had seen—instrument indications that the flaps were in the correct position (15-degree extension). The flaps were not in the correct position. Given events such as these, the airline industry realized by the early 1980s that such tragedies would continue unless it adopted radically dif- ferent practices and, for the first time, addressed not just advertent human failure but wholly inadvertent mistakes. To that end, the industry had to do more than adopt major changes; it had to change its philosophy and, most important, to change the entire culture of airline piloting.

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19 TRANSFORMATION THROUGH SYSTEMS ENGINEERING Many who look at the aviation industry’s excellent safety record today erroneously think it is simply the result of engineering successes based on the mechanics of the operation, on systems, and on getting people under control and completing more and more checklists. In fact, even some mem- bers of the industry are unaware of the cultural revolution that transformed our ability to prevent accidents due to human mistakes. More to the point for this workshop, the changes I refer to as a renaissance in thinking during the 1980s and 1990s have helped us create a new paradigm that can, as many have realized, be transferred to health care. In fact, I and many oth- ers have been doing exactly that with solid success for a number of years, primarily by focusing on training healthcare professionals in the discipline of how humans fail and what can be done to create a human system that can prevent those failures from hurting patients. That training is completely counter to the traditional, autonomous approach to health care, especially in relation to physicians, in holding as a fundamental tenet that although individual humans—including surgeons—are incapable of achieving perfec- tion, interactive and collegial teams of humans can do so. Indeed, this is the primary legacy of the CRM revolution in airline cockpits, where we have saved countless lives and aircraft in the past 20 or more years by requiring more than 1 human mind to weigh in when something appears amiss and using a teamwork approach based on the common goal of flight safety to approach self-correction and safe operational decisions. Eliminated in such an atmosphere is the angry autonomous leader who disciplines a subordi- nate by berating, belittling, and ignoring that individual just for speaking up. Gone as well is the situation in which a subordinate has the key to save everyone but cannot pass it to the leader. Health care today and the airline industry of yesterday are remarkably parallel in that every physician, nurse, and other healthcare professional is trained, essentially, to be perfect and never to make mistakes. Worse, the system is built the same way aviation was—on the expectation of human perfection, with few if any buffers to allow for major human mistakes. In the airline industry, thousands of work-years of engineering had been de- voted (with great success) to providing backup systems for even the most arcane failure modes, but when it came to engineering for human failure, the approach taken was simply to order the human not to fail. Equally appalling in light of what we now know was the lack of emphasis on human-to-human relationships as the platform for true communication, co- ordination, and self-correction. Similarly in medicine, there is traditionally no expectation of human error in good doctors, nurses, and pharmacists, so there appears to be no valid reason for having backup and buffer systems to absorb mistakes. The lesson from the airline industry, then, is that buffers against nor- mal human error are a prime safety component in any human system. Of

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180 ENGINEERING A LEARNING HEALTHCARE SYSTEM equal importance is the reality that the healthcare culture, as previously was the case with the airline culture, includes an expectation of hierarchical autonomy that is challenged by any subordinate speaking up to report a mistake or concern. In the airline industry, subordinates’ sensitivity to the feelings of a senior created a culture-based reluctance to point out concerns, problems, or even impending disasters lest the leader become angry at the suggestion that he or she was in error. Leaders, after all, are trained never to make mistakes. But that left only one mind operating in an airplane (or an operating room), while the other qualified professionals sat in silence, even (in the airlines) if the captain was a gentle individual who wanted to hear from his or her crew. This situation kept us from improving safety levels and preventing that last tier of human mistake−driven accidents. Perhaps the most important experience the airline industry can share with health care is its realization that no human can be perfect and that no team can function as a team without collegiality and mutual respect. We proceeded to build a system around those assumption, constructing buf- fers and backups for all reasonably anticipatable human failures that might otherwise lead to an incident or accident. And history shows that we have succeeded. We learned that a safety system has three distinct tiers. Tier 1 encom- passes all the training and indoctrination and agreed-upon or imposed professional methods, such as checklist compliance and “time-outs,” that are designed to prevent human error. Understanding that some human er- ror will occur despite our best efforts at standardization and training, we then must construct Tier 2, comprising those buffers and backups that will catch and cancel out the effects of human error and latent system failures. Finally, Tier 3 reflects the realization that even after accomplishing highly effective work in preventing and then screening out the effects of mistakes, we will still occasionally experience catastrophic failure unless we enter every operational sequence expecting a 50 percent chance of failure. With this expectation and through collegial teams whose members have no hesitation in communicating with each other for the good of the mission, we construct a systemic approach that ensures our leaders are ready and willing to consider even the most tenuous concern as potentially valid and “stop the line,” or hold off on the operation, or abort the takeoff until the team and the leader are sure that safety is not threatened. Thus, either a junior flight engineer or a new circulating nurse would get an instant and serious audience by saying, “I’m not sure, but I think something’s wrong,” rather than having to overcome a group presumption of normalcy. That one change—the Tier 3 approach—can be the final key to constructing a system that protects against catastrophic patient injury or death from pre- ventable medical human mistakes. But to institutionalize such procedures requires a systemic approach that is foreign to the American healthcare

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181 TRANSFORMATION THROUGH SYSTEMS ENGINEERING experience, which is why looking to the engineering community for help is so important. Human beings fail in three basic ways—by making mistakes in per- ception, assumption, and communication. Perception failures include, for example, a flight crew’s failure to recognize that the aircraft’s wing flaps are not properly extended for takeoff. One mistaken assumption caused an accident in 1977, when two pilots assumed their Boeing 747 was cleared for takeoff when in fact it was not. Another 747 had missed a turn and was sit- ting sideways on the runway ahead, unseen in the fog. The decision to start the takeoff was a human mistake nurtured by a poor cockpit culture. That day it resulted in the loss of 583 lives. The third human failure is mistakes in communication, a human propensity shared by health care and aviation. Approximately 12.5 percent of the time in human verbal communication, people who otherwise understand each other fail to do so in that instance. The old phrase “I know you think you understood what you thought I said, but I am not sure you realize that what you heard wasn’t what I meant” points to the universality of misunderstanding. We have learned, however, that reading back a clearance or a medical order can reduce the potential for mistakes to below half a percent. Aviation had to learn these basic failure modes instead of fighting to deny them or ordering them to not occur. We had to learn to inculcate the expectation of such failures in everything we did. So, too, must health care. But to accept these realities operationally and culturally and integrate them into health care (with its largely autonomous tradition), we need a structured, engineered framework within which such approaches as the minimization of variables, collegial team communication, and the three tiers discussed above can be deployed as standard operating methodology. Equally important—and not just to avoid the charge of creeping cookbook medicine—is that the resulting structure must nurture physicians in using their cognitive, analog, diagnostic, and surgical skills to do what checklists, machines, and procedures alone can never accomplish. By finding the proper balance, one can create a system that enables humans—through technol- ogy and enlightened methodologies—to practice what they do best—apply judgment, skill, and reason. We cannot incorporate an expectation of perfection in a human system without creating and nurturing disasters. We cannot fail to accommodate human attitudes, feelings, or physiological limitations without perpetuating a societally unacceptable level of patient injuries and service quality. What health care needs from the applied and unique expertise engineering can provide is a structure that legitimizes and inculcates known best practices, eliminates the need or latitude to reinvent each procedure, and provides the best possible operational buffers against inevitable human fallibility, while

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