A trigger tool fails to identify serious errors and adverse events in pediatric otolaryngology

Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2010 Oct;143(4):480-6. doi: 10.1016/j.otohns.2010.06.820.


Objective: To identify and quantify errors and adverse events on an inpatient academic tertiary-care pediatric otolaryngology service, a trigger tool was developed and validated as part of a quality improvement initiative.

Study design: Retrospective record review.

Setting: Children's Hospital Boston quality improvement initiative.

Subjects and methods: Fifty inpatient admissions were reviewed. The gold standard for errors and adverse events identification was a detailed chart review by two board-certified otolaryngologists blinded to trigger tool findings.

Results: Trigger tool interrater reliability ranged from poor to high for admission triggers (kappa = 0.35, 95% confidence interval [95% CI] -0.07 to 0.76), discharge triggers (kappa = 0.63, 95% CI 0.27-0.99), medical records triggers (kappa = 0.61, 95% CI 0.11-1.00), and medication triggers (kappa = 0.90, 95% CI 0.71-1.00). Errors and adverse events were found in all admissions: three percent were potentially harmful, and 93 percent were documentation-related.

Conclusion: The trigger tool was successful in identifying clerical and administrative errors and adverse events but failed to identify complex errors and adverse events. A hybrid approach for chart review may be cost-effective in pediatric otolaryngology.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Validation Study

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Humans
  • Medical Errors*
  • Medical Records
  • Medication Errors
  • Observer Variation
  • Otolaryngology
  • Otorhinolaryngologic Surgical Procedures*
  • Patient Admission
  • Patient Discharge
  • Risk Factors