Using Medical Emergency Teams to Detect Preventable Adverse Events

Crit Care. 2009;13(4):R126. doi: 10.1186/cc7983. Epub 2009 Jul 30.


Introduction: Medical Emergency Teams (METs), also known as Rapid Response Teams, are recommended as a patient safety measure. A potential benefit of implementing an MET is the capacity to systematically assess preventable adverse events, which are defined as poor outcomes caused by errors or system design flaws. We describe how we used MET calls to systematically identify preventable adverse events in an academic tertiary care hospital, and describe our surveillance results.

Methods: For four weeks we collected standard information on consecutive MET calls. Within a week of the MET call, a multi-disciplinary team reviewed the information and rated the cause of the outcome using a previously developed rating scale. We classified the type and severity of the preventable adverse event.

Results: We captured information on all 65 MET calls occurring during the study period. Of these, 16 (24%, 95% confidence interval [CI] 16%-36%) were felt to be preventable adverse events. The most common cause of the preventable adverse events was error in providing appropriate therapy despite an accurate diagnosis. One service accounted for a disproportionate number of preventable adverse events (n = 5, [31%, 95% CI 14%-56%]).

Conclusions: Our method of reviewing MET calls was easy to implement and yielded important results. Hospitals maintaining an MET can use our method as a preventable adverse event detection system at little additional cost.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Hospital Rapid Response Team*
  • Humans
  • Medical Errors / prevention & control*
  • Middle Aged
  • Ontario