Critical incident monitoring in paediatric and adult critical care: from reporting to improved patient outcomes?

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Purpose of review

Critical incident reporting alone does not necessarily improve patient safety or even patient outcomes. Substantial improvement has been made by focusing on the further two steps of critical incident monitoring, that is, the analysis of critical incidents and implementation of system changes. The system approach to patient safety had an impact on the view about the patient's role in safety. This review aims to analyse recent advances in the technique of reporting, the analysis of reported incidents, and the implementation of actual system improvements. It also explores how families should be approached about safety issues.

Recent findings

It is essential to make as many critical incidents as possible known to the intensive care team. Several factors have been shown to increase the reporting rate: anonymity, regular feedback about the errors reported, and the existence of a safety climate. Risk scoring of critical incident reports and root cause analysis may help in the analysis of incidents. Research suggests that patients can be successfully involved in safety.


A persisting high number of reported incidents is anticipated and regarded as continuing good safety culture. However, only the implementation of system changes, based on incident reports, and also involving the expertise of patients and their families, has the potential to improve patient outcome. Hard outcome criteria, such as standardized mortality ratio, have not yet been shown to improve as a result of critical incident monitoring.

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