Objective: Hospital incident reporting is widely used but has had limited effectiveness for improving patient safety nationally. We describe the process of establishing a multi-institutional safety event reporting system.
Methods: A descriptive study in The Pediatric Emergency Care Applied Research Network of 22 hospital emergency departments was performed. An extensive legal analysis addressed investigators' concerns about sharing confidential incident reports (IRs): (1) the ability to identify sites and (2) potential loss of peer review statute protection. Of the 22 Pediatric Emergency Care Applied Research Network sites, 19 received institutional approval to submit deidentified IRs to the data center. Incident reports were randomly assigned to independent review; discordance was resolved by consensus. Incident reports were categorized by type, subtype, severity, staff involved, and contributing factors.
Results: A total of 3,106 IRs were submitted by 18 sites in the first year. Reporting rates ranged more than 50-fold from 0.12 to 6.13 per 1000 patients. Data were sufficient to determine type of error (90% of IRs), severity (79%), staff involved (82%), and contributing factors (82%). However, contributing factors were clearly identified in only 44% of IRs and required extrapolation by investigators in 38%. The most common incidents were related to laboratory specimens (25.5%), medication administration (19.3%), and process variance, such as delays in care (14.4%).
Conclusions: Incident reporting provides qualitative data concerning safety events. Perceived legal barriers to sharing confidential data can be addressed. Large variability in reporting rates and low rates of providing contributing factors suggest a need for standardization and improvement of safety event reporting.