Using the Generic Analysis Method to Analyze Sentinel Event Reports Across Hospitals: A Retrospective Cross-Sectional Study

Mees C Baartmans, Steffie M Van Schoten, Bert J Smit, Cordula Wagner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


OBJECTIVES: Improving patient safety by investigating sentinel events (SEs) is hampered by the focus on isolated events within hospitals and a narrow scope of traditional root cause analysis methods. We aimed to examine if performing cross-hospital aggregate analysis of SEs applying a novel generic analysis method (GAM) bearing a human factor perspective can enhance learning from SEs.

METHODS: A retrospective cross-sectional review of SE reports from 28 Dutch general hospitals using the GAM to reanalyze events was performed. A qualitative approach was used to identify contributing factors and system issues. Findings were discussed with a patient safety expert panel. Descriptive statistics and measures of associations between domains were calculated.

RESULTS: Sixty-nine SE reports were reviewed. Applying the GAM provided a more holistic SE analysis than a traditional method. Of the 405 identified contributing factors in all SEs, the majority was related to the persons involved (patients and professionals, n = 146 [36.2%]) and the organization (n = 121 [30%]). The most frequently recurring pattern was the combination of factors related to the persons involved, the technology used, the tasks of professionals, and organizational factors influencing the event. Cross-hospital aggregate GAM analysis of SEs helped to identify system issues and propose more system-oriented overarching recommendations.

CONCLUSIONS: This study found that applying the GAM to analyze SEs across hospitals can help to improve learning from SEs and may result in proposing stronger recommendations. The method can support hospitals, working together in a network of hospitals, to jointly learn from SEs.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)158-165
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Patient Safety
Issue number3
Early online date19 Jan 2023
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2023


  • critical incident review
  • human factors
  • patient safety
  • quality improvement
  • root cause analysis
  • sentinel event analysis

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