The aim of this study was to analyze the strength of safety measures described in incident reports in outpatient care.
An incident reporting project in German outpatient care included 184 medical practices with differing fields of specialization. The practices were invited to submit anonymous incident reports to the project team 3 times for 17 months. Using a 14-item coding scheme based on international recommendations, we deductively coded the incident reports and safety measures. Safety measures were classified as “strong” (likely to be effective and sustainable), “intermediate” (possibly effective and sustainable), or “weak” (less likely to be effective and sustainable).
The practices submitted 245 incident reports. In 160 of them, 243 preventive measures were described, or an average of 1.5 per report. The number of documented measures varied from 1 in 67% to 4 in 5% of them. Four preventive measures (2%) were classified as strong, 37 (15%) as intermediate, and 202 (83%) as weak. The most frequently mentioned measures were “new procedure/policy” (n = 121) and “information/notification/warning” (n = 45).
The study provides examples of critical incidents in medical practices and for the first time examines the strength of ensuing measures introduced in outpatient care. Overall, the proportion of weak measures is (too) high, indicating that practices need more support in identifying strong measures.