Purpose: This article aims to analyze morbidity and mortality conferences (M&MCs) in a university-affiliated hospital, notably their format and progression since the 1990s.
Design/methodology/approach: A cross-sectional study was conducted and M&MC characteristics were collected using three methods: a questionnaire to all department heads to identify past M&MCs; semi-structured interviews with each M&MC leader; and when available, meeting reports were analyzed.
Findings: Of 189 questionnaires sent to department heads, 105 were completed and returned (55.6 per cent). A total of 27 M&MCs were identified; five times more than in 1994. The M&MC format varied greatly between departments. In surgical units, cases per conference tended to be higher than in intensive care or medical units and paramedical staff were invited less often. Compared with 1998, head nurses (70.4 vs 27.3 percent, p = 0.03) and paramedical staff (63.0 vs 18.2 percent, p = 0.03) attendance increased significantly. Physicians considered M&MCs important for improving service quality, patient safety and enhancing team cohesion.
Research limitations/implications: Patient outcomes were not assessed.
Practical implications: Although undefined formats allowed leaders to conduct M&MCs according to their objectives, how these conferences are conducted should impact healthcare quality and safety.
Originality/value: Results indicate that M&MCs have evolved over the past 20 years, showing them to be valuable quality and safety improvement methods.