Self-Reported Learning (SRL), a Voluntary Incident Reporting System Experience Within a Large Health Care Organization

Published:January 16, 2021DOI:


      In aviation, significant improvements in safety have been attributed to a system of voluntary reporting of errors and hazards by pilots and other frontline personnel. Such a system is lacking in health care.


      A system to allow physicians to self-report their clinical care errors along with insights to prevent recurrence (“self-reported learning [SRL] system”) was established in three hospitals and used for four years in one center and for two years in two others. Clinicians were educated in how to use the system and encouraged to report deviations from standard care by secure e-mail, a telephone hotline, or the institutional incident reporting system. Events were included in the SRL system only if clinicians self-reported them prior to others doing so. Submissions were analyzed for evidence of primary insight, recognition of error, and secondary insight. Physicians were surveyed afterward about their attitudes toward clinical peer review, the physician's role in errors, and the SRL program.


      There were 117 SRL submissions (less than 5% of clinical peer review cases); 86 had complete information available. Of these, there was agreement among two reviewers that secondary insight was present in 52.2%, and several were novel submissions that otherwise would have not been identified. Survey response rate was 18.3%; 31.1% of respondents had never been involved in clinical peer review before, a majority had an overall favorable impression of clinical peer review, and 47.2% reported not having made “any mistakes worth reporting.”


      An SRL system modeled after the aviation reporting system elicited a low number of reports and did not decrease the number of clinical peer review reports. In a high proportion of SRL reports reporting physicians demonstrated secondary insight. Benefits to SRL reporting could be seen despite low number of self-reports.
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