Objectives: To determine whether continuous detection of adverse patient occurrences followed by analysis and medical intervention can alter the rate of adverse occurrences.
Design and participants: 15912 patients discharged from one hospital were reviewed in two stages. Medical records were screened retrospectively by medical records staff for one or more of eight general patient outcome criteria. Those that screened positive for the criteria were reviewed by one of four doctors. If an adverse occurrence was confirmed, further analysis and recommendations for action to prevent its recurrence were made at meetings of the four doctors, and forwarded to a committee of visiting medical officers who decided on the appropriate course of action.
Setting: A rural base hospital in Horsham, Victoria, between July 1991 and June 1994.
Main outcome measures: The rate and severity of adverse patient occurrences in each year.
Results: 1465 records were screened positive for one or more criteria, and an adverse patient occurrence was confirmed in 155. 88 cases were determined to be minor or not preventable and further action (mostly by changes to hospital policies) was recommended for the remaining 67. Over the three years, the number of adverse occurrences fell from 69 (1.35% of all patient discharges in the first year) to 33 (0.58% of all patient discharges in the third year) (P < 0.0001) and there was no significant change in severity.
Conclusions: The rate of adverse patient occurrences can be significantly reduced by their continuous detection using retrospective screening in conjunction with review, analysis and action to prevent recurrences.