An electronic incident reporting and complaints handling system has dramatically reduced the number of complaints relating to medical errors in AZ Sint-Lucas hospital in Bruges.
The patient safety software was implemented in early November 2010. In 2011, the number of incidents reported at the hospital - the first in mainland Europe to implement this kind of system - tripled from 100 to 300. It doubled again in the following eight months, with further improvements expected, as staff is trained on the new system and user confidence grows. The hospital has also gained an increased ability to analyse trends and numerical proof of the existence of incidents - meaning that staff now have the tool to help managers improve patient safety.
Up until 2007, AZ Sint-Lucas relied on staff remembering to report incidents either by telephone or in the form of hand-written notes. At the time, only 30 incidents were actually reported every year. The hospital then used an in-house developed electronic system to report and record incidents more effectively. After two years , the number of incidents being reported had risen to around 100 per year. Despite the three-fold increase, however, Medical Director, Dr de Coninck and his team were still not convinced that all incidents were being captured efficiently and decided to search for a new, automated patient safety solution.
"The healthcare market in Belgium is relatively small therefore we have a limited number of computer programmes designed for hospitals in the area of adverse event management," said Dr de Coninck. "This means that Flemish hospitals tend to look towards the UK or USA for technology solutions".
By February 2011, all incidents and complaints were held electronically in the system and available to medical staff. Niko Dierickx, Hospital Director at AZ Sint-Lucas said "that complaints are recorded centrally and doctors, service or department heads can investigate incidents in a unified fashion so avoiding possible errors." He added, "over time, this will also help us guard against potential litigation."
He concluded that the system "has quickly become a powerful tool to highlight potential risks, enabling us to take a more proactive approach to improving patient safety," adding that "working with the [supplier's] team in the UK has been a very positive experience for us and we look forward to building this close collaboration in the future."
A widespread deployment of the complaints module will take place. Over time, Dr de Coninck hopes to expand the current system to maximise the full capabilities of the portfolio and make it an integral part of the hospital's quality and safety policy.
AZ Sint-Lucas and the team of the supplier company are also working on the translation of the software to enable the introduction of safety risk management software into other hospitals in Belgium.