WHO Efforts to Promote Reporting of Adverse Events and Global Learning

J Public Health Res. 2013 Dec 1;2(3):e29. doi: 10.4081/jphr.2013.e29.


Despite the importance of reporting systems to learn about the casual chain and consequences of patient safety incidents, this is an area that requires of further conceptual and technical developments to conduce reporting to effective learning. The World Health Organization, through its Patient Safety Programme, adopted as a priority the objective to facilitate and stimulate global learning through enhanced reporting of patient safety incidents. Landmark developments were the WHO Draft Guidelines for Adverse Event Reporting and Learning Systems, and the Conceptual Framework for the International Classification for Patient Safety, as well as the Global Community of Practice for Reporting and Learning Systems. WHO is currently working with a range of scientists, medical informatics specialists and healthcare officials from various countries around the world, to arrive at a Minimal Information Model that could serve as a basis to structure the core of reporting systems in a comparable manner across the world. Undoubtedly, there is much need for additional scientific developments in this challenging and innovative area. For effective reporting systems and enhanced global learning, other key contextual factors are essential for reporting to serve to the needs of clinicians, patients and the healthcare system at large. Moreover, the new data challenges and needs of organizations must be assessed as the era of big data comes to heath care. These considerations delineate a broad agenda for action, which offer an ambitious challenge for WHO and their partners interested in strengthening learning for improving through reporting and communicating about patient safety incidents. Significance for public healthUnderstanding the causes and consequences of incidents is cornerstone for patient safety improvement. Likewise, setting up systems to facilitate such understanding and communicate the learning across all healthcare actors is crucial. Over the past decade, the World Health Organization has convened an area of work, with the support of a growing number of collaborating agencies, institutions and experts worldwide to facilitate the identification of global directions aiming to facilitate the development and management of patient safety incident reporting systems as well as the extraction and communication of useful learning. Exchange and sharing of best practices and experiences has been at the essence of this work. This paper describes such efforts and also reflects on other areas of work which are essential to enhance patient safety by learning from the failures of the health care.

Keywords: communication; information systems; patient safety; reporting systems; safety management; taxonomy.

Publication types

  • Review