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Soc Sci Med. 2010 May;70(9):1309-16. doi: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2010.01.035. Epub 2010 Feb 13.

Prospective risk analysis prior to retrospective incident reporting and analysis as a means to enhance incident reporting behaviour: a quasi-experimental field study.

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  • 1Eindhoven University of Technology, 5600 MB Eindhoven, The Netherlands. m.kessels@infoland.nl


Hospitals can apply prospective and retrospective methods to reduce the large number of medical errors. Retrospective methods are used to identify errors after they occur and to facilitate learning. Prospective methods aim to determine, assess and minimise risks before incidents happen. This paper questions whether the order of implementation of those two methods influences the resultant impact on incident reporting behaviour. From November 2007 until June 2008, twelve wards of two Dutch general hospitals participated in a quasi-experimental reversed-treatment non-equivalent control group design. The six units of Hospital 1 first conducted a prospective analysis, after which a sophisticated incident reporting and analysis system was implemented. On the six units of Hospital 2 the two methods were implemented in reverse order. Data from the incident reporting and analysis system and from a questionnaire were used to assess between-hospital differences regarding the number of reported incidents, the spectrum of reported incident types, and the profession of reporters. The results show that carrying out a prospective analysis first can improve incident reporting behaviour in terms of a wider spectrum of reported incident types and a larger proportion of incidents reported by doctors. However, the proposed order does not necessarily yield a larger number of reported incidents. This study fills an important gap in safety management research regarding the order of the implementation of prospective and retrospective methods, and contributes to literature on incident reporting. This research also builds on the network theory of social contagion. The results might indicate that health care employees can disseminate their risk perceptions through communication with their direct colleagues.

Copyright 2010 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

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