What are the Four Types of Healthcare Incident Reports?

Melissa Whetzel
Incident report types

Anyone who has watched a medical drama on TV knows that almost anything can happen in a healthcare facility. While much of what is shown is unrealistic or inaccurate, the unpredictability for healthcare workers is very real. Since every care setting is different, there could be many different answers to questions like “What are the four types of healthcare incident reports?”

In this blog, we’ll look at different ways of determining the four types of incident reports a facility might use, why you’d want different incident report templates for each type, and how compliance software helps healthcare professionals steer through the complexities of adverse events.

What Is an Incident Report?

An incident report is thorough documentation of an unexpected event that affects either staff or patients. Common incidents include injuries, medication errors, equipment failure, exposures, health and safety hazards, and more. The incident report includes all relevant details, including the 5 W’s of incident report writing, the actions taken, and any outcomes that stemmed from it. The key to a good incident report is completeness and accuracy, and that means documenting as much information as possible.

Why is incident reporting important in healthcare? Healthcare incident reporting not only ensures patient safety but also the resilience of your organization. These reports are the checkpoints where detailed events are documented, analyzed, and learned from. Incident reports transform subjective experiences into objective data, facilitate comprehensive risk management, and help structure best practices. They also serve as legal and accreditation tools, safeguards against litigation, and commitment to regulatory standards.

Four Types of Healthcare Incident Reports

The four types of healthcare incident reports can vary from organization to organization. Some facilities will categorize by the most frequent types of incidents in their facility, while others may categorize it by the type of staff involved (clinical, non-clinical, administrative, etc.). One of the most common ways to separate healthcare incident reports is by outcome, which is shown below.

What are the four types of healthcare incident reports?

  1. Sentinel Incidents: This is a serious patient safety event that results in death, permanent harm, or severe temporary harm, and the intervention required to sustain life. Such events are called “sentinel” because they signal the need for immediate investigation and response. In the most severe of instances, patient deaths are both avoidable or unavoidable in nature.
    • Real-World Example: A patient with a known bleeding disorder undergoes elective surgery without special precautions, leading to massive hemorrhaging and eventual death. This calls for a thorough review of the patient’s pre-existing conditions and the appropriateness of the chosen treatment.
  2. Near-Miss Incidents: These are incidents that could have caused harm to the patient but did not, either by chance or through timely intervention. Near misses are significant for learning and improvement since they reveal vulnerabilities in the healthcare system without resulting in harm to a patient.
    • Real-World Example: A patient is about to be administered a medication they are allergic to, but the error is caught and corrected before the medication is given.
  3. No Harm Incidents: These incidents involve errors or deviations from the standard of care that do not result in harm to the patient but indicate a potential for risk. No-harm incidents are important for understanding unsafe conditions or practices that could lead to harm if unaddressed.
    • Real-World Example: A labeling error on a sample is caught before analysis, so the mistake doesn’t harm the patient but highlights a flaw in procedures.
  4. Non-Patient Related Incidents: These events do not directly involve patients but have the potential to affect the safety, operation, or integrity of the healthcare environment. These incidents can impact staff, visitors, or the healthcare facility itself, and they might indirectly influence patient care or safety.
    • Real-World Example: A nurse accidentally sticks herself with a used needle during disposal. This doesn’t impact a patient, but should be documented to ensure the nurse gets the proper medical attention to prevent infection and to prompt a procedure and supply review.

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Benefits of Multiple Incident Report Templates

As you can see, even when divided into four types of healthcare incident reports, the incidents can vary widely. Using many customized incident reporting templates makes it easier for staff to complete and for administrators to respond to incidents.

For example, non-patient incidents can range from equipment and property damage to information security breaches to staff injury. When reporting equipment damage, knowing the type of equipment damaged is essential, so you’d likely ask for the specific piece of equipment. However, if a staff member is reporting an information security breach, a question about equipment might be confusing. Once one question is left unanswered, it opens the door for many to be left incomplete, which can harm the reporting and resolution process.

Creating separate incident report templates for each type of incident means you can require answers to all questions, and you can easily sort by question to provide aggregate data or analyze groups of incident reports.

Strengthen Incident Report with an Online System

If you’re using a paper incident reporting process, you’re probably thinking it is nearly impossible to create dozens of incident report templates to print and file. You might be right. It’s why leading healthcare organizations are adopting digital incident reporting solutions. They help to create a proactive reporting culture, eliminate delays, identify trends, and resolve issues more quickly.

MedTrainer Incident Reporting streamlines information gathering and analysis with:

  • Digital Forms Accessible Anywhere. Save staff time by digitizing incident reports so employees at any location can quickly and easily report incidents from anywhere with an internet connection.
  • Drag-and-Drop Form Builder. Easy drag-and-drop fields allow you to customize an unlimited number of form templates and improve the collection of specific data to simplify workflows and identify trends.
  • Report Anonymously. The online format offers employees the ability to complete incident reports from anywhere — and submit them anonymously — to encourage reporting, quick escalation, and resolution.
  • Escalation Matrix. Expedite the approval and review process with automated escalation workflows to remove barriers that are part of a paper process. No more looking for paper or people.
  • Severity Levels. Say goodbye to ambiguity and hello to clarity and precision. Experience a new level of incident reporting effectiveness and identify important trends by assigning accurate and meaningful classifications to every incident.

MedTrainer offers all the functions listed above in an all-in-one compliance solution. Enhance your compliance programs with digital incident reporting solutions for any size organization. Contact us to learn more.