Measuring Errors and Adverse Events in Health Care

Authors

  • Eric J. Thomas MD, MPH,

    Corresponding author
    1. Received from The Center for Clinical Research and Evidence Based Medicine, Division of General Medicine, and Department of Medicine at The University of Texas Houston Medical School (EJT), Houston Tex; and the Houston Center for Quality of Care and Utilization Studies, a Health Services Research and Development Center of Excellence, Houston VA Medical Center, and Section for Health Services Research, Baylor College of Medicine (LAP), Houston, Tex.
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  • Laura A. Petersen MD, MPH

    1. Received from The Center for Clinical Research and Evidence Based Medicine, Division of General Medicine, and Department of Medicine at The University of Texas Houston Medical School (EJT), Houston Tex; and the Houston Center for Quality of Care and Utilization Studies, a Health Services Research and Development Center of Excellence, Houston VA Medical Center, and Section for Health Services Research, Baylor College of Medicine (LAP), Houston, Tex.
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Address correspondence and requests for reprints to Dr. Thomas: The University of Texas Houston Medical School, 6431 Fannin MSB 1.122, Houston TX 77030 (e-mail: eric.thomas@uth.tmc.edu).

Abstract

In this paper, we identify 8 methods used to measure errors and adverse events in health care and discuss their strengths and weaknesses. We focus on the reliability and validity of each, as well as the ability to detect latent errors (or system errors) versus active errors and adverse events. We propose a general framework to help health care providers, researchers, and administrators choose the most appropriate methods to meet their patient safety measurement goals.

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