Background: A survey was conducted to assess the benefits and limitations of the Australian Incident Monitoring System (AIMS) as a programme to improve patient safety.
Methods: A 12-point questionnaire was sent to 12 current users of AIMS in November 2002.
Results: The AIMS provides a consistent system of coding, trending and monitoring of incident data. It promotes a patient safety culture and an awareness of system error. Other benefits include the building of teamwork and the implementation of strategies to reduce the prevalence and severity of incidents. The majority of respondents (83%) reported that AIMS investigations resulted in significant changes to equipment usage, medication prescribing or administration, clinical protocols, training programmes and falls risk assessment tools. Although 75% of users reported improvements in patient outcomes, these were difficult to measure. A major limitation of AIMS was the low rate of incident reporting by medical staff. Voluntary reporting systems did not capture all incident data and the information was often too generic for root cause analysis. There were difficulties benchmarking data and concerns were raised regarding the ownership of information. The programme requires ongoing resources to implement change strategies and to maintain incident reporting levels. On a scale of 1 (poor rating) to 10 (excellent rating) the mean benefit rating was 7.6.
Conclusion: The Australian Incident Monitoring System is beneficial as a component of a clinical risk management strategy. Usefulness could be improved by increased participation by medical staff. The level of resources required should not be underestimated if the programme is to demonstrate improvements to patient outcomes. More recent versions of AIMS promise improved capabilities and will require similar evaluation.