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Fam Pract. 1997 Apr;14(2):101-6.

Collecting data on potentially harmful events: a method for monitoring incidents in general practice.

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  • 1Department of General Practice, University of Sydney, Westmead Hospital, NSW, Australia.



The prediction and subsequent prevention of errors, which are an integral element of human behaviour, require an understanding of their cause. The incident monitoring technique was developed in the study of aviation errors in the Second World War and has been applied more recently in the field of anaesthetics. This pilot study represents one of the first attempts to apply the incident monitoring technique in the general practice environment.


A total of 297 GPs across Australia anonymously reported details of unintended events which harmed or could have harmed the patient. Reports were contemporaneously recorded on prepared forms which allowed a free text description of the incident, and structured responses for contributing and mitigating factors, immediate and long-term out-comes, additional costs etc.


The first 500 reports were analysed using both of qualitative and quantitative methods and a brief overview of results is presented. The methodological issues arising in the application of this technique to such a large, widely spread profession, in which episodes of care are not necessarily confined to a single consultation, are discussed. This study demonstrated that the incident monitoring technique can be successfully applied in general practice and that the resulting information can facilitate the identification of common factors contributing to such events and allow the development of preventive interventions.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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