Background: Patient and provider safety is paramount in all aspects of emergency medical services (EMS) systems. The leaders, administrators, and policymakers of these systems must have an understanding of situations that present potential for harm to patients or providers.
Objective: This study analyzed reports to a statewide EMS safety event reporting system with the purpose of categorizing the types of incidents reported and identifying opportunities to prevent future safety events.
Methods: This statewide EMS safety incident reporting system is a Web-based system to which any individual can anonymously report any event or situation perceived to impact safety. We reviewed all reports between the system's inception in 2003 through August 2010. A stipulation of the system is that any entry containing information that identifies an EMS provider, agency, or patient will be deleted and thus not included in the analysis. Each event report included the description of the event, the relationship of the reporter, and the year in which the event occurred. Each entry was placed into a category that best represents the situation described.
Results: A total of 415 reports were received during the study period, and 186 reports were excluded-163 (39%) excluded by the state because of identifiable information and 23 (6%) excluded by the authors because of nonsensical description. Within the remaining 229 reports, there were 237 distinct safety events. These events were classified as actions/behavior (32%), vehicle/transportation (16%), staffing or ambulance availability (13%), communications (8%), medical equipment (9%), multiple patients/agencies/units and level-of-care issues (7%), medical procedure (6%), medication (5%), accident scene management/scene safety (3%), and protocol issues (1%). EMS providers directly involved in the event represented the largest reporting group (33%). We also provide examples of statewide system and policy changes that were made in direct response to these reports.
Conclusion: This EMS safety incident reporting system identified situations that occurred in many categories of EMS care. These potential dangers represent opportunity to assess, and ultimately change, policy and procedures to reduce potential safety events and medical errors and improve overall safety. A substantial number of cases were excluded to maintain the promise of anonymity within the system.