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Safety Event Detection and Management: 3 Things Every Hospital Needs

Most hospitals use basic safety event reporting mechanisms to monitor safety events and identify improvement opportunities. But the effectiveness of these mechanisms is often hindered by three key barriers:

  1. Lack of automated event detection  
  2. Cumbersome documentation workflows 
  3. Limited reporting and analytics capabilities 

When safety event reporting solutions lack these three features, events are less likely to be reported in a timely manner. Worse, many safety events may be missed altogether. That means hospitals are more likely to experience the same safety problems in the future.  

Here’s more on how your hospital can overcome the three key barriers outlined above. 

Barrier #1: Lack of automated event detection  

Why it’s a problem: In most hospitals, the only method to capture and report safety events is through staff member reporting. This single-method approach often results in delayed reporting and failure to report events at all. For example, staff may not have time to report events, forget to report them, or choose not to report them due to fear of punitive action. 

How to overcome it: Automated event detection 

What it is: Automated event detection, also known as electronic case finding, is the process of identifying safety events that have occurred using software algorithms and/or rules engines. This process, which can be used in combination with staff reporting, ensures more safety events are captured more quickly. 

Automated event detection requires near-real time standardized and normalized data. Cases are found using numerous types of data feeds including, but not limited to, the EMR, nursing notes, imaging, diagnosis and problem lists, medication administrations, and more.  

The best event auto-detection solutions capture all types of safety events, including those that affect patients, employees, and visitors.  


Automated Event Detection In Action: Narcan Example

VigiLanz Safety Surveillance uses several criteria to automatically detect safety events. For example, if the following criteria are met for the use of Narcan, a safety event is documented: 

  1. The administration of Narcan in a patient who has recently received morphine. 
  2. The patient has evidence of respiratory depression via a decrease in respiratory rate or oxygen saturation. 
  3. The patient is not currently located in a procedure area where the use of Narcan is more routine.  

Barrier #2: Cumbersome documentation workflows 

Why it’s a problem: Event reporting should not be difficult for your staff members. The harder it is for them to document events, the more likely it is that they will document them incorrectly or won’t document them at all. Cumbersome workflows also increase the likelihood that the reporting will lack the thoroughness necessary to support investigative processes. 

How to overcome it: Event form auto-population 

What it is: The same data feeds used to automatically detect safety events can also help streamline documentation workflows for staff members. When real-time standardized and normalized data is pulled from these data feeds, that data can be populated into event reporting forms automatically. This significantly reduces staff time spent filling out event forms.

This real-time data can provide additional benefits, including enhanced reporting accuracy and more efficient communication regarding safety events. For example, if certain thresholds are met, the solution can automatically trigger real-time alerts to relevant staff members.    

“Identifying patient safety opportunities is a fundamental first step to preventing harm and improving patient care, which is why hospitals promote safety event reporting.”

– James Hoffman, PharmD, Chief Patient Safety Officer, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital

Barrier #3: Limited reporting and analytics capabilities 

Why it’s a problem: In order to foster continual safety improvements, the safety event reporting mechanism must make it easy for healthcare leaders to investigate and act on documented information via reporting and analytics tools. Unfortunately, this is another area in which many safety event reporting mechanisms fall short. 

How to overcome it: Automated event detection + form auto-population + reporting tools 

What it is: As previously noted, automated event detection and form auto-population are critical to ensuring safety events are identified quickly and documented properly. However, these capabilities are also key to enabling the quick and thorough analysis and investigation of safety events. 

Without automated event detection and auto-population, even the best safety event reporting and analytics platforms stumble. Since organizations without automated detection and auto-population tend to capture fewer events and fewer details related to events, their reporting and analytics platforms are working with incomplete data. That means these organizations are missing key safety trends and improvement opportunities. 

When automated event detection is used in tandem with a robust set of reporting and analytics tools—such as timelines, cause mapping, solution maps, and fishbone diagrams—hospitals can identify more safety events and safety trends more quickly. This helps them intervene faster to prevent future problems. 

“Hospitals increasingly recognize that they must find ways to intervene more quickly when safety events occur. The longer the delay in intervention, the more likely it is a similar event will occur again. Automated event detection and alerts keep patients safer because hospitals can intervene faster.”

– Karen Biesack, Senior Quality and Safety Specialist, VigiLanz

VigiLanz Dynamic Safety Surveillance is a modern, configurable platform for identifying, reporting, managing, and communicating safety events. By incorporating the above capabilities, VigiLanz enables organizations promote a culture of safety while reducing adverse events. Learn more at