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The role of the emergency medical dispatch centre (EMDC) is essential to ensure coordinated and safe prehospital care. The aim of this study was to implement an incident report (IR) system in prehospital emergency care management with a view to detecting errors occurring in this setting and guiding the implementation of safety improvement initiatives.
An ad hoc IR form for the prehospital setting was developed and implemented within the EMDC of Verona. The form included six phases (from the emergency call to hospital admission) with the relevant list of potential error modes (30 items). This descriptive observational study considered the results from 268 consecutive days between February and November 2010.
During the study period, 161 error modes were detected. The majority of these errors occurred in the resource allocation and timing phase (34.2%) and in the dispatch phase (31.0%). Most of the errors were due to human factors (77.6%), and almost half of them were classified as either moderate (27.9%) or severe (19.9%). These results guided the implementation of specific corrective actions, such as the adoption of a more efficient Medical Priority Dispatch System and the development of educational initiatives targeted at both EMDC staff and the population.
Despite the intrinsic limits of IR methodology, results suggest how the implementation of an IR system dedicated to the emergency prehospital setting can act as a major driver for the development of a “learning organization” and improve both efficacy and safety of first aid care.
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