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Learning from safety incidents in high-reliability organizations: a systematic review of learning tools that could be adapted and used in healthcare

Lookup NU author(s): Naresh Serou, Professor Andy HusbandORCiD, Professor Simon Forrest, Bob Slight, Professor Sarah SlightORCiD



This is the authors' accepted manuscript of an article that has been published in its final definitive form by Oxford University Press, 2021.

For re-use rights please refer to the publisher's terms and conditions.


Abstract. Objective: A high-reliability organization (HRO) is an organization that has sustained almost error-free performance, despite operating in hazardous conditions where the consequences of errors could be catastrophic. A number of tools and initiatives have been used within HROs to learn from safety incidents, some of which have the potential to be adapted and used in healthcare. We conducted a systematic review to identify any learning tools deemed to be effective that could be adapted and used by multidisciplinary teams in healthcare following a patient safety incident. Methods: This review followed the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and MetaAnalyses for Protocols reporting guidelines and was registered with the PROSPERO (CRD42017071528). A search of databases was carried out in January 2021, from the date of their commencement. We conducted a search on electronic databases such as Web of Science, Science Direct, MEDLINE in Process Jan 1950-present, EMBASE Jan 1974-present, CINAHL 1982-present, PsycINFO 1967-present, Scopus and Google Scholar. We also searched the grey literature including reports from government agencies, relevant doctoral dissertations and conference proceedings. A customized data extraction form was used to capture pertinent information from included studies and Critical Appraisal Skills Programme tool to appraise on their quality. Results: A total of 5921 articles were identified, with 964 duplicate articles removed and 4932 excluded at the title (4055), abstract (510) and full-text (367) stages. Twenty-five articles were included in the review. Learning tools identified included debriefing, simulation, crew resource management and reporting systems to disseminate safety messages. Debriefing involved deconstructing incidents using reflective questions, whilst simulation training involved asking staff to relive the event again by performing the task(s) in a role-play scenario. Crew resource management is a set of training procedures that focus on communication, leadership and decision-making. Sophisticated incident-reporting systems provide valuable information on hazards and were widely recommended as a way of disseminating key safety messages following safety incidents. These learning tools were found to have a positive impact on learning if conducted soon after the incident with efficient facilitation. Conclusion: Healthcare organizations should find ways to adapt to the learning tools or initiatives used in HROs following safety incidents. It is challenging to recommend any specific one as all learning tools have shown considerable promise. However, the way these tools or initiatives are implemented is critical, and so further work is needed to explore how to successfully embed them into healthcare organizations so that everyone at every level of the organization embraces them.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Serou N, Sahota L, Husband AK, Forrest SP, Slight RD, Slight S

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: International Journal for Quality in Health Care

Year: 2021

Volume: 33

Issue: 1

Print publication date: 17/03/2021

Online publication date: 17/03/2021

Acceptance date: 16/03/2021

Date deposited: 07/04/2021

ISSN (print): 1353-4505

ISSN (electronic): 1464-3677

Publisher: Oxford University Press


DOI: 10.1093/intqhc/mzab046


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