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CIHI report on Measuring Patient Harm in Canadian HospitalsOct272016

1 in 18 Canadian hospital patients experience harm from preventable errors

Governments, national and provincial organizations, individual health regions and hospitals are all working along with patients to improve safety in hospitals. Tracking and reporting harmful events is vital to improvement efforts. Historically, reporting has been mostly voluntary and focused on particular risks such as infections. There has not been a single measure that gives an overview of harm in Canadian hospitals — until now. The Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI) and the Canadian Patient Safety Institute (CPSI) have developed a new measure of harm occurring in Canadian hospitals, and a national picture is now available.

Findings show that in 2014–2015

  • Patients suffered potentially preventable harm in more than 138,000 hospitalizations in Canada, or about 1 in 18 hospitalizations (5.6%).
  • Of the patients who experienced harm, about 20% experienced more than 1 harmful event while in hospital.

There are 31 types of harm captured in the measure (see the figure). They were selected because they are associated with evidence-informed practices that can reduce the likelihood of their occurrence. It is important to note that the measure does not cover all harmful events that happen in hospitals — only those that fit into at least 1 of the 31 types of harm. For the harm to be included in the data capture, it must have occurred while the patient was in hospital and required treatment or extended the patient’s stay. Because the measure uses administrative data that CIHI collects regularly, it is relatively easy to update.


Measurement alone does not decrease harm. To assist hospitals in their patient safety efforts, an improvement resource has been developed to link each of the 31 types of harm to practices that can help reduce their occurrence. The improvement resource describes what clinicians can do to improve safety for the different types of harm. It will allow care teams to spend less time researching what they need to do and more time doing it.

Download the full CIHI report and additional resources here.

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