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Qual Saf Health Care. 2010 Apr;19(2):148-57. doi: 10.1136/qshc.2008.030114.

Time to listen: a review of methods to solicit patient reports of adverse events.

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Department of Anesthesia, British Columbia Children's Hospital, 4480 Oak Street, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.



Patients have been shown to report accurate observations of medical errors and adverse events. Various methods of introducing patient reporting into patient safety systems have been published with little consensus among researchers on the most effective method. Terminology for use in patient safety reporting has yet to be standardised.


Two databases, PubMed and MEDLINE, were searched for literature on patient reporting of medical errors and adverse events. Comparisons were performed to identify the optimal method for eliciting patient initiated events.


Seventeen journal publications were reviewed by patient population, type of healthcare setting, contact method, reporting method, duration, terminology and reported response rate.


Few patient reporting studies have been published, and those identified in this review covered a wide range of methods in diverse settings. Definitive comparisons and conclusions are not possible. Patient reporting has been shown to be reliable. Higher incident rates were observed when open-ended questions were used and when respondents were asked about personal experiences in hospital and primary care. Future patient reporting systems will need a balance of closed-ended questions for cause analysis and classification, and open-ended narratives to allow for patient's limited understanding of terminology. Establishing the method of reporting that is most efficient in collecting reliable reports and standardising terminology for patient use should be the focus of future research.

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