In a previous blog post, we discussed the importance of reporting patient safety events, or adverse events, in a hospital setting. Hospital employees should report incidents whenever they occur; this alerts administrators to look into the problem and provides management with a record of data that helps prevent repeat mistakes.
According to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), all hospitals must offer an anonymous way for staff to submit incident reports. In a best-case scenario, every patient safety event would be reported in detail, addressed by hospital staff, and stored as data for future analysis and review.
However, many incidents go unreported for a variety of reasons. Much of the problem comes from confusing, unintuitive, or otherwise unuseful incident reporting software. While most hospitals have phased out paper reporting systems, even electronic software can muddle processes and cause difficulties and headaches for the staff who use them.
What makes good hospital reporting software? On their website, AHRQ outlines the four most important characteristics of an effective hospital reporting system. The system in question should:
- Offer support and protection to those who make reports
- Allow a wide variety of personnel to make reports
- Quickly disseminate reports to the appropriate people
- Provide a method in place for viewing reports and developing next steps
Support and Protection
Every hospital employee knows the importance of submitting incident reports. But feelings of guilt and fear of retribution can keep doctors, nurses, and other staff from reporting incidents, even if they know it’s imperative to do so.
Any good incident reporting software must provide employees with a safe, secure way to make submissions. This can lead to an increase in incident reports overall; accepting anonymous submissions goes a long way towards letting employees feel comfortable about admitting their mistakes. Conversely, if employees feel their reports will lead to punishment for themselves or their coworkers down the line, far more incidents and near misses are likely to slip through the cracks.
A Wide Variety of Personnel
Incident reporting systems work best when reports come directly from the people involved with the issue. A patient incident can occur under the supervision of many different hospital staff members including doctors, nurses, pharmacists, and technicians.
To encourage more first-person reports, incident reporting software should provide an easy-access portal -- secure enough to prevent fraudulent reports, but open enough that staff from any department can locate and use it. Allowing any staff member to access the portal speeds up the reporting process and lightens the load for other members of hospital staff, such as doctors and nurses.
Alerting the Right People Quickly
It’s not enough to simply submit a report -- a good event reporting system must also make sure the information reaches the right person as soon as possible.
Many incident reporting systems places submissions in stasis until a human being is available to manually assign the case to the necessary person. However, some systems include auto-assign: this ties certain staff members to particular incident types automatically and ensures the proper staff members get notified immediately without having to press a button. Additional features, such as email notification, keep involved parties aware of any follow-up that occurs as the incident makes its way toward resolution.
Viewing Reports and Planning Next Steps
After the report has entered the system, the appropriate staff members have been alerted, and the situation has been managed, it’s still important to maintain an updated archive of closed incidents. Good reporting software saves and logs case information and provides an intuitive way to filter, analyze, and display the data to quickly identify trends. Software with a simple and easily-navigable dashboard that can sort data just the way you need makes data analysis much easier.
What can your hospital’s incident reporting software do?
Outdated and inefficient event reporting systems can cost a hospital no small amount of time and money. Does your hospital’s reporting software do everything your team needs it to? Does it meet all of the AHRQ’s standards? If not, it may be time to update your system -- for the good of your team and for the well-being of your patients.