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Barriers to adverse event and error reporting in anesthesia
Heard, G., Sanderson, P., & Thomas, R.
Anesthesia and Analgesia. 114(3), 584-589 (2012)


Although anesthesiologists are leaders in patient safety, there has been little research on factors affecting their reporting of adverse events and errors. First, we explored the attitudinal/emotional factors influencing reporting of an unspecified adverse event caused by error. Second, we used a between-groups study design to ask whether there are different perceived barriers to reporting a case of anaphylaxis caused by an error compared with anaphylaxis not caused by error. Finally, we examined strategies that anesthesiologists believe would facilitate reporting. Where possible, we contrasted our results with published findings from other physician groups.


An anonymous, self-administered, mailed survey was conducted of 629 consultant anesthesiologists and 263 anesthesiology residents on the mailing list of the Australian and New Zealand College of Anaesthetists in Victoria, Australia. Participants were randomized into “Error” versus “No Error” groups for the specified anaphylaxis adverse event section of the survey. Data were analyzed using nonparametric descriptive and inferential tests.


There were 433 usable returned surveys, a usable response rate of 49%. First, there was only 1 of 13 statements on attitudinal/emotional factors that influenced reporting of an unspecified adverse event caused by error with which more anesthesiologists agreed/strongly agreed than disagreed/strongly disagreed: “Doctors who make errors are blamed by their colleagues.” Second, when an error rather than no error had caused anaphylaxis, participants were more likely to agree/strongly agree that 6 statements about litigation, getting into trouble, disciplinary action, being blamed, unsupportive colleagues, and not wanting the case discussed in meetings, were perceived as reporting barriers. Finally, the most favored assistive strategies for reporting were generalized deidentified feedback about adverse event and error reports, role models such as senior colleagues who openly encourage reporting, and legislated protection of reports from legal discoverability.


The majority of anesthesiologists in our study did not agree that the attitudinal/emotional barriers surveyed would influence reporting of an unspecified adverse event caused by error, with the exception of the barrier of being concerned about blame by colleagues. The probable influence of 6 perceived barriers to reporting a specified adverse event of anaphylaxis differed with the presence or absence of error. Anesthesiologists in our study supported assistive reporting strategies. There seem to be some differences between our results and previously published research for other physician groups.

Accessed: 1108 times
Created: Thursday, 8th March 2012 by paulj
Modified: Thursday, 8th March 2012 by paulj
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