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Improving critical incident reporting in primary care through education and involvement

  • Müller, Beate Sigrid1
  • Beyer, Martin1
  • Blazejewski, Tatjana1
  • Gruber, Dania1
  • Müller, Hardy2
  • Gerlach, Ferdinand Michael1
  • 1 Goethe University Frankfurt, Frankfurt am Main, Germany , Frankfurt am Main (Germany)
  • 2 Techniker Krankenkasse, Hamburg, Germany , Hamburg (Germany)
Published Article
BMJ Open Quality
BMJ Publishing Group
Publication Date
Aug 19, 2019
DOI: 10.1136/bmjoq-2018-000556
PMID: 31523734
PMCID: PMC6711430
PubMed Central


Background Critical incident reporting systems (CIRS) can be an important tool for the identification of organisational safety needs and thus to improve patient safety. In German primary care, CIRS use is obligatory but remains rare. Studies on CIRS implementation in primary care are lacking, but those from secondary care recommend involving management personnel. Objective This project aimed to increase CIRS use in 69 practices belonging to a local practice network. Methods The intervention consisted of the provision of a web-based CIRS, accompanying measures to train practice teams in error management and CIRS, and the involvement of the network’s management. Three measurements were used: (1) number of incident reports and user access rates to the web-based CIRS were recorded, (2) staff were given a questionnaire addressing incident reporting, error management and safety climate and (3) qualitative reflection conferences were held with network management. Results Over 20 months, 17 critical incidents were reported to the web-based CIRS. The number of staff intending to report the next incident online decreased from 42% to 20% of participants. In contrast, the number of practices using an offline CIRS (eg, incident book) increased from 23% to 49% of practices. Practices also began proactively approaching network management for help with incidents. After project completion, participants scored higher in the patient safety climate factor ‘perception of causes of errors’. For many practices, the project provided the first contact with structured error management. Conclusion Specific measures to improve the use of CIRS in primary care should focus on network management and practice owners. Practices need basic training on safety culture and error management. Continuing, practices should implement an offline CIRS, before they can profit from the exchange of reports via web-based CIRS. It is crucial that practices receive feedback on incidents, and trained network management personnel can provide such support.

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