Do EMS personnel identify, report, and disclose medical errors?

Authors:
Cherri Hobgood
Cherri Hobgood
University of North Carolina School of Medicine
United States
Jane H Brice
Jane H Brice
University of North Carolina
United States
Barbara Overby
Barbara Overby
University of North Carolina
United States
Joshua H Tamayo-Sarver
Joshua H Tamayo-Sarver
Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine
United States

Prehosp Emerg Care 2006 Jan-Mar;10(1):21-7

Department of Emergency Medicine, UNC School of Medicine, Chapel Hill, NC 27599, USA.

Objective: To evaluate self-reports of prehospital providers' error frequency, disclosure, and reporting in their actual practice and in hypothetical scenarios.

Methods: The authors surveyed a convenience sample of prehospital providers attending a statewide emergency medical services conference using a two-part instrument. Part 1 evaluated respondent demographics and actual practice patterns. Part 2 used hypothetic scenarios to assess error identification, disclosure, and reporting patterns. Descriptive statistics and Fisher's exact tests were used to characterize demographics and practice patterns. For hypothetical scenarios, the authors calculated mean responses with 95% confidence intervals (CIs) to assess error identification, anticipated disclosure, and reporting patterns.

Results: The response rate was 88% (372/425). Analysis was limited to 283 (75% of 372) respondents who were emergency medical technicians and had complete data. In the previous year, 157 (55%) providers identified no errors in practice, 100 (35%) reported one or two errors, and 26 (9%) identified more than two errors. In approximately half of cases, identified errors were reported to the receiving provider, or supervisor. In hypothetical cases, severe errors were identified 93% (95% CI 92-94) of the time, but the ability of providers to identify mild errors significantly varied. In all scenarios, respondents were much more likely to report errors to the receiving hospital, their supervisor, and their medical director than to patients.

Conclusions: Prehospital providers demonstrate the capacity to identify, report, and, to a lesser extent, disclose errors in hypothetical scenarios but may not apply these skills uniformly in their own practices. Enhancing error management skills in prehospital clinical practice will require focused education and training.

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June 2006
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