The Incidence and Preventability of Adverse Events in Older Acutely Admitted Patients: A Longitudinal Study With 4292 Patient Records

B Schouten, H Merten, Peter Spreeuwenberg, P Nanayakkara, C Wagner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Acute care crowding is a global issue, jeopardizing patient safety. An important cause of crowding is the growing number of older, vulnerable, and complex patients. This group is at higher risk of experiencing (preventable) adverse events (AEs) than younger patients.

This study aimed to identify the incidence, preventability, nature, and prevention strategies of AEs in older patients during an acute hospital admission and to assess changes over time.

We analyzed data of 4292 acutely admitted patients (70+) who died in the hospital, using data of a multicenter Dutch AE record review study (2008, 2012, 2016). Multilevel logistic regression analyses were performed to adjust for patient-mix differences and clustering on department/hospital level per year.

The incidence of AEs in this group declined significantly (χ2(1) = 8.78, P = 0.003) from 10.7% (95% confidence interval [CI] =8.2–13.9) in 2008, 7.4% (95% CI = 5.6–9.7) in 2012, to 7.2% (95% CI = 5.5–9.3) in 2016. The relative preventability showed a significant parabolic trend (χ2(1) = 4.86, P = 0.027), from 46.2% (95% CI = 34.1–58.7), to 32.4% (95% CI = 21.1–46.1), to 44.6% (95% CI = 32–58). Adverse events were often related to medication (26.3% in 2008, 35.1% in 2012, and 39.5% in 2016), and the preventability in AEs related to diagnosis was highest (88.3%, 70.8%, and 79.9%).

The incidence of AEs in older acutely admitted patients declined over the years; however, the preventability increased again after an initial decline. This could be related to crowding or increasing complexity in the acute care chain. Further monitoring and improvement in (preventable) AE rates are necessary to pinpoint areas of improvement to make hospital care for this vulnerable group safer.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)166-173
JournalJournal of Patient Safety
Issue number3
Early online dateJul 2020
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2021


  • Acute care
  • Adverse events
  • Medical record review
  • Older patients
  • patient safety

Cite this