Patient safety in general practice

Gehring, Katrin; Schwappach, David (2014). Patient safety in general practice. Zeitschrift für Evidenz, Fortbildung und Qualität im Gesundheitswesen, 108(1), pp. 25-31. Elsevier, Urban & Fischer 10.1016/j.zefq.2014.01.011

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So far, there has been a lack of systematic data regarding critical incidents and safety climate in Swiss primary care offices. Therefore, a survey was conducted amongst physicians and nurses (“MPA”) working in Swiss German primary care offices leading to a subsequent project on the telephone triage.


Using a standardised questionnaire, healthcare professionals in primary care offices have been surveyed to determine safety risks and safety climate in their offices. The questionnaire consisted of safety-climate items as well as descriptions of 23 safety incidents. These incidents were rated in terms of frequency (appearance in the office during the past 12 months) and severity (harm associated with the last occurrence in the office). In addition, physicians and nurses answered an open-ended question referring to patient safety risks they would wish to eliminate in their offices. In the subsequent project, interviews and group discussions have been conducted with physicians and nurses in order to conduct a process analysis of the telephone triage and to develop a tool that may help primary care offices to strengthen telephone triage as a secure process.


630 physicians and nurses (50.2 % physicians, 49.8 % nurses) participated in the study. 30 % of the physicians and 17 % of the nurses observed at least one of the 23 incidents in their offices on a daily or weekly basis. Errors in documentation were reported most frequently. As regards severity, the triage by nurses at the initial patient contact, errors in diagnosis, failure to monitor patients after therapeutic treatment in the office, and errors regarding the medication process were shown to be most relevant. Most frequently participants wanted to eliminate the following risks to patient safety in their offices: medication (28 % of all mentions), medical procedures in the office (11 %) and telephone triage (7 %). Participation in team meetings and quality circles proved to be relevant predictors of the safety climate dimension “team-based error prevention”. Differences between occupational groups were found regarding safety incidents as well as safety climate.


The results of this study show the telephone triage to be a relevant area of patient safety in primary care that has not been focused on so far. In order to enhance safety of the triage process a new project was initiated. The result of the project is a triage guide for primary care offices. This guide supports physicians and nurses in a joint and critical examination of office structures and processes related to telephone triage. The systematically observed differences between occupational groups indicate that the entire office team need to be involved when analysing safety risks and taking action to improve patient safety. Only in doing so, risks can be identified comprehensively. Moreover, measures can be taken that are relevant to and supported by all healthcare professionals working in a primary care office. This approach of involving the entire team forms the basis for the guide on telephone triage.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


04 Faculty of Medicine > Pre-clinic Human Medicine > Institute of Social and Preventive Medicine (ISPM)

UniBE Contributor:

Schwappach, David


600 Technology > 610 Medicine & health
300 Social sciences, sociology & anthropology > 360 Social problems & social services




Elsevier, Urban & Fischer




Doris Kopp Heim

Date Deposited:

19 Mar 2014 17:50

Last Modified:

11 Sep 2017 19:25

Publisher DOI:


PubMed ID:


Uncontrolled Keywords:

Patientensicherheit; Grundversorgung; Schweiz; Sicherheitsklima; Telefon-Triage Patient safety; primary care; Switzerland; safety climate; telephone triage




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