Data consistency in a voluntary medical incident reporting system

J Med Syst. 2011 Aug;35(4):609-15. doi: 10.1007/s10916-009-9398-y. Epub 2009 Dec 18.


Voluntary medical incident reporting systems are a valuable source for studying adverse events and near misses. Unfortunately, such systems usually contain a large amount of incomplete and inaccurate reports which negatively affect their utility for medical error research. To investigate the reporting quality and propose solutions towards quality voluntary reports, we employed a content analysis method to examine one-year voluntary medical incident reports of a University Hospital. Results indicate that there is a large amount of inconsistent records within the reports. About 25% of the reports were labeled as "miscellaneous" and "other". Through an in-depth analysis, those "miscellaneous" and "other" were substituted by their real incident types or error descriptions. Analysis shows that the pre-defined reporting categories serve well in general for the voluntary reporting need. In some cases, human factors play a key role in selecting accurate categories since reporters lack time or information to complete the report. We suggest that a human-centered, ontology based system design for voluntary reporting is feasible. Such a design could help improve the completeness and accuracy, and interoperability among national and international standards.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Data Collection / statistics & numerical data*
  • Hospitals, University / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Medical Errors / classification
  • Medical Errors / statistics & numerical data
  • Risk Management / statistics & numerical data*
  • Systems Analysis*