Can healthcare incident reporting reduce preventable medical errors?

Baiju VY

Baiju VY

Vice President, HxCentral

As a professional working for the betterment of healthcare industry, it pains me even more to read the following headlines, especially when these are preventable medical errors:

“Delhi hospital declares newborn twins dead; one found alive by family.”

 “Gorakhpur tragedy, over 60 children dead.”

 “Family alleges Gurugram hospital charged INR 18 lakhs for dengue treatment.”


The occurrence of such preventable medical errors is by no means limited to India. One can find them at every corner of this world.

Globally 10% of preventable medical errors happen in all hospital admissions. In addition, WHO estimated that 20-40% of all healthcare spending is wasted due to inadequate quality care. In America, about 700 people die every day due to hospital medical errors. The number would be around 1000 in the UK. The number is expected to be way higher in India and developing nations.

Now, we don’t need a high-end analytics system to figure out that the hospitals will have to take a severe look at the preventable medical errors as a critical step in their healthcare quality process. Until sometime back, the hospitals have been extremely slow in tackling this critical problem.

A common question I keep hearing from hospitals (not the quality departments) is – “can healthcare incident reporting systems reduce preventable medical errors.”

Yes, they certainly do.

Here are top 5 points to see how healthcare incident management helps you to reduce the preventable medical errors and improve the patient safety.


# 1 Potential incident alerts at the right time

A well-fed incident management system can alert the doctors/nursing staff on potential incidents and errors that might occur. The system analyzes patterns in reporting and intelligently sends out the alerts in a non-intrusive way.


# 2 Interventions for repeatable errors

The incident management system identifies the risk and provides valuable information on errors and hazards. The quality department can implement interventions to reduce such risks and track them to improve patient safety.


# 3 Unearth unstated incidents through whistleblowers

It is not an uncommon practice to bury some risks under the carpet and follow “kill the messenger” practices. Perhaps, not literally but mute the whistleblower. The incident management system helps the staff at any level to record an incident and once its recorded the alerts go to all departments for action. This can help unearth all the real problems and start addressing them.


# 4 Respond faster to avoid repercussions (even PR issues)

An incident report, be it near-miss or adverse or sentinel, needs to be responded. Depending on the type of the incident, the alerts can go to the administration or other departments who can quickly respond by talking to the patient or family to offer appropriate support. A well-managed incident can avoid unnecessary PR issues.


# 5 Personalize patient experience

Incident management, when tagged with a patient, can give you a wealth of information that you can use to personalize their experience. E.g. A chemotherapy patient had an allergic reaction to certain fruit juices when administered before the procedure. You can avoid feeding them those juices than relying on the memory of the nursing staff.

Incident management might not be a panacea, but it certainly helps in improving the patient safety and experience by miles. We’ve had several engagements where our clients have reduced the preventable medical errors by ~60%. And, these are large multinational hospitals with our 40 units.

However, the big question is how many hospitals do have formal incident management and reporting system that captures all incidents and sends alerts at a potential error. I am not referring to excel sheets and manual entries on a paper, but a digital system.

So, the first step for you is to evaluate a system that best suits your hospital.

Do drop me a note if you have seen any other benefits that can motivate the hospitals to implement the incident management systems faster.