Identifying Previously Undetected Harm: Piloting the Institute for Healthcare Improvement's Global Trigger Tool in the Veterans Health Administration

Qual Manag Health Care. Jul-Sep 2015;24(3):140-6. doi: 10.1097/QMH.0000000000000060.


Background: Adverse event (AE) surveillance may be enhanced by the Institute for Healthcare Improvement's Global Trigger Tool (GTT). A pilot study of the GTT was conducted in one Veterans Health Administration (VA) facility to assess the rates, types, and harm of AEs detected and to examine the overlap in AE detection between the GTT and existing surveillance mechanisms.

Methods: GTT guidelines were followed and medical records were reviewed for 17 weeks of acute care hospitalizations. Investigators met monthly, first to adjudicate discordant reviewer categorizations of harm and later to categorize the AEs detected using standardized definitions. GTT-detected AEs were compared with incident reports, Patient Safety Indicators, and the VA Surgical Quality Improvement Program.

Results: Medical records were reviewed for 273 of 1980 eligible cases. Using the GTT, a total of 109 AEs were identified. More than 1 of 5 hospitalizations (21%) were associated with an AE. The majority of AEs detected (60%) were minor harms; there were no deaths attributable to medical care. Ninety-six of the 109 AEs (88%) were not detected by other measures.

Conclusions: The GTT identified previously undetected AEs at one VA. The GTT has the potential to track AEs and guide quality improvement efforts in conjunction with existing AE surveillance mechanisms.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Medical Audit
  • Medical Errors*
  • Patient Safety*
  • Pilot Projects
  • Quality Improvement*
  • Safety Management
  • United States
  • United States Department of Veterans Affairs
  • Veterans Health*