Using "near misses" analysis to prevent wrong-site surgery

J Healthc Qual. 2015 Mar-Apr;37(2):126-32. doi: 10.1111/jhq.12037.


The purpose of our pre-post intervention study was to reduce the number of near-miss events pertaining to wrong-site surgery, including incorrectly sided surgical bookings and incorrectly performed preoperative time-out procedures. Pre- and postintervention, incorrectly booked cases, and improperly performed presurgical time-out procedures were recorded. We then educated each surgeon and their staff regarding the importance of and proper way to perform these tasks. Subsequently, the monthly percentage of incorrectly booked surgical procedures and improperly performed time-outs were significantly decreased.

Introduction: In 2004, the Joint Commission published comprehensive guidelines to prevent wrong-site surgery. Seven years have passed, and the incidence has not declined. The Joint Commission estimates that in the United States, wrong-site procedures including surgeries occur at least 40 times a week. "Near misses" are events that could have harmed a patient, but did not due to chance or mitigation. Improperly performed time-out procedures and inaccurate surgical bookings are considered near misses and could ultimately lead to "never events," such as wrong-site surgery. Near-miss analysis is a highly effective method of preventing rare, "never events." We hypothesize that proper education of surgeons and staff will be effective in reducing the number of near misses.

Methods: All cases analyzed were performed at an academic, orthopedic surgery specialty institution. From August 2010 to May 2011, near misses were identified and stored in Patient Safety Net (PSN), an electronic database. We tracked these cases and educated each offending attending physician and his or her staff about the importance of accurate surgical bookings. Additionally, we began an observational program to carefully review presurgical time-out procedures as they occurred. We tracked the percentage of these improperly performed time-outs and counseled offenders (attending surgeon, or any member of the operating room staff who made the error) regarding the deficiencies that caused the time-out to be ineffective. The number of near misses that occurred before and after the interventions were recorded and analyzed.

Results: Of the 12,215 cases included in this study, 6,126 cases formulated the "pre-education" cohort, while a total of 6,089 cases formulated the "post-education" cohort. In the first four months of the study, the monthly rate of incorrectly booked cases was 0.75%. Since the intervention, the rate decreased to 0.41% (p = .0139). The percentage of improperly performed time-out procedures decreased from 18.7% to 5.9% after the educational interventions were performed (p < .0001).

Conclusion: A program designed to educate physicians to the importance of decreasing near misses for wrong-site surgery is effective. When analyzing the literature, it is clear that the reduction in near misses observed in this study decreases the likelihood of a wrong-site surgery.

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Medical Errors / prevention & control*
  • Medical Errors / statistics & numerical data
  • Orthopedic Procedures / standards*
  • Patient Safety / standards*
  • Patient Safety / statistics & numerical data
  • Personnel, Hospital / education*
  • Surgeons / education
  • Tertiary Care Centers