Skip to main content

Integrating Incident Data from Five Reporting Systems to Assess Patient Safety: Making Sense of the Elephant

Buy Article:

$12.00 plus tax (Refund Policy)


Background: A study was conducted to examine and compare information gleaned from five different reporting systems within one institution: incident reporting, patient complaints, risk management, medical malpractice claims, and executive walk rounds. These data sources vary in the timing of the reporting (retrospective or prospective), severity of the events, and profession of the reporters.

Methods: A common methodology was developed for classifying incidents. Data specific to each incident were abstracted from each system and then categorized using the same framework into one of 23 categories.

Results: Overall, there was little overlap, although each reporting system identified important safety issues. Communication problems were common among patient complaints and malpractice claims; malpractice claims' leading category was clinical judgement. Walk rounds identified issues with equipment and supplies. Adverse event reporting systems highlighted identification issues, especially mislabelled specimens. The frequency of contributions of reports by provider group varied substantially by system. Physicians accounted for 50% of risk management reports, but in adverse event reporting, where nurses were the main reporters, physicians accounted for only 2.5% of reports. Complaints and malpractice claims come primarily from patients.

Conclusions: The five reporting systems each identified different yet complementary patient safety issues. To obtain a comprehensive picture of their patient safety problems and to develop priorities for improving safety, hospitals should use a broad portfolio of approaches and then synthesize the messages from all individual approaches into a collated and cohesive whole.

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2010-09-01

More about this publication?
  • The Joint Commission Journal on Quality and Patient Safety will be published by Elsevier beginning in 2017! For readers who receive access to the journal through their institutions, the journal can now be found on ScienceDirect ( For librarians looking to subscribe to the journal for their institutions please contact your Elsevier Account Manager or visit for more information. All other readers, please visit to subscribe to the journal or to claim your access for an existing subscription.
  • Editorial Board
  • Information for Authors
  • Subscribe to this Title
  • Information for Advertisers
  • Reprints and Permissions
  • Index
  • Ingenta Connect is not responsible for the content or availability of external websites
  • Access Key
  • Free content
  • Partial Free content
  • New content
  • Open access content
  • Partial Open access content
  • Subscribed content
  • Partial Subscribed content
  • Free trial content
Cookie Policy
Cookie Policy
Ingenta Connect website makes use of cookies so as to keep track of data that you have filled in. I am Happy with this Find out more