What Are Near-Miss Events in Healthcare?

Dave Clifton

It’s not uncommon to read about an asteroid that passed Earth in what scientists call a “near miss.” Healthcare has its own near-miss events where a complication or medical error sometimes causes injury but the patient survives. What are near-miss events in healthcare?

In this blog, we’ll describe near-miss events and how incident reporting software helps healthcare organizations better understand causes and ways to prevent future problems.

What is a Near-Miss Event?

The World Health Organization (WHO) defines a near miss as “an error that has the potential to cause an adverse event [patient harm] but fails to do so because of chance or because it is intercepted.”

Example: A patient who recently underwent surgery decides to take a short walk in the hallway outside their room. They shuffle out of their room on the slippery floor and the nurse notices the patient is wearing socks from home. The nurse notifies the manager, removes the patient’s personal socks, and replaces them with hospital-approved, non-slip socks. In this scenario, a near-miss incident occurred.

Near-Miss Events are Common

A 2023 study by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) found that near-miss events occur in nearly 23% of 5,582 emergency department cases studied. More than three-fourths (77%) were due to emergency department overcrowding and medication administration errors. In a separate NIH study from 2014, researchers found that near misses happen more than 300 times as often as adverse events — ones that cause harm due to medical errors.

The prevalence of near-miss events demands healthcare organizations carefully monitor, report, and correct errors before they escalate to adverse events. The consequences of not properly addressing near-miss events can be severe, impacting both healthcare organizations and the quality of patient care. While specific penalties can vary, they often include:

  • Regulatory fines from federal or state health agencies.
  • Increased scrutiny from accreditation bodies, possibly affecting accreditation status.
  • Legal implications, including lawsuits, if near-miss events are not reported or addressed and later lead to harm.
  • Damage to reputation, leading to a loss of patient trust and potential financial losses.
  • Mandatory implementation of corrective action plans, which can be costly and time-consuming.

Agencies such as CMS (Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services), NIH, and HHS (Health and Human Services) emphasize the importance of reporting and managing these incidents to not only avoid these penalties but to also improve healthcare delivery processes.

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Monitor and Manage Near-Miss Events

Compliance software is an effective tool to help organizations monitor and manage near-miss events. These tools offer features such as incident reporting, real-time alerts, data analysis, and trend tracking, which help identify patterns and prevent future errors. By integrating compliance software, healthcare organizations can:

  • Facilitate easy and anonymous reporting of near-miss events by staff at all levels, encouraging a culture of safety and transparency.
  • Analyze data from near-miss incidents to identify root causes and systemic issues within the organization.
  • Implement corrective actions based on insights gained from data analysis, reducing the risk of similar events occurring in the future.
  • Monitor the effectiveness of interventions over time, ensuring continuous improvement in patient safety and quality of care.

Near-miss incident reporting and other process improvements can be achieved with a digital incident reporting solution. It can help to create the proactive reporting culture your organization desires while eliminating delays, identifying trends, and resolving issues quickly.

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.


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