Objective: To determine the incidence of errors anonymously reported by general practitioners in NSW.
Design: The Threats to Australian Patient Safety (TAPS) study used anonymous reporting of errors by GPs via a secure web-based questionnaire for 12 months from October 2003.
Setting: General practices in NSW from three groupings: major urban centres (RRMA 1), large regional areas (RRMA 2-3), and rural and remote areas (RRMA 4-7).
Participants: 84 GPs from a stratified random sample of the population of 4666 NSW GPs - 41 (49%) from RRMA 1, 22 (26%) from RRMA 2-3, and 21 (25%) from RRMA 4-7. Participants were representative of the GP source population of 4666 doctors in NSW (Medicare items billed, participant age and sex).
Main outcome measures: Total number of error reports and incidence of reported errors per Medicare patient encounter item and per patient seen per year.
Results: 84 GPs submitted 418 error reports, claimed 490 864 Medicare patient encounter items, and saw 166 569 individual patients over 12 months. The incidence of reported error per Medicare patient encounter item per year was 0.078% (95% CI, 0.076%-0.080%). The incidence of reported errors per patient seen per year was 0.240% (95% CI, 0.235%-0.245%). No significant difference was seen in error reporting frequency between RRMA groupings.
Conclusions: This is the first study describing the incidence of GP-reported errors in a representative sample. When an anonymous reporting system is provided, about one error is reported for every 1000 Medicare items related to patient encounters billed, and about two errors are reported for every 1000 individual patients seen by a GP.