Objective: Despite an increase in research, there is still a lack of knowledge about patient safety in emergency departments (EDs) in many European countries. The aim of this study was therefore to describe the incidence and types of reported medical errors and complaints in ED care in Sweden.
Methods: Data reported in 2009 were gathered from national authorities, including the National Board of Health and Welfare, the Medical Responsibility Board, the Patients Advisory Committees, and local incident-reporting systems. Data were analyzed by content analysis.
Results: Among 428 cases reported by care providers to the National Board of Health and Welfare, 64 (15.0%) were related to ED care. As several cases contained more than one medical error, 92 errors were identified, out of which 39 (42.4%) were related to diagnostic procedures. Among the 4628 cases of complaints reported by patients to the Medical Responsibility Board, 306 (6.6%) were related to ED care. In total, 437 complaints regarding perceived medical errors were identified (several cases contained more than one error), with 189 (43.2%) pertaining to diagnostic procedures. A total of 1341 complaints about ED care were made by patients to the Patients Advisory Committees (n=21), of which 655 (48.8%) were related to care and treatment. There were 7434 medical errors reported to local incident-reporting systems at the EDs (n=45). Of these, 1450 (19.5%) referred to care and treatment.
Conclusion: Medical errors and complaints at Swedish EDs, as reported by both patients and care providers, were related mainly to diagnostic procedures and treatments.