Incident reporting systems (IRSs) have been widely adopted in healthcare, calling for the investigation of serious incidents to understand what causes patient harm. In this article, we study how the Dutch IRS contributed to social and participative learning from incidents. We integrate quantitative and qualitative data in a mixed-methods design. Between 1 July 2013 and 31 March 2019, Dutch hospitals reported and investigated 4667 incidents. Healthcare inspectors scored all investigations to assess hospitals’ learning process following incidents. We analysed if and on what aspects hospitals improved over time. Additionally, we draw from semi-structured interviews with incident investigators, quality managers, healthcare inspectors and healthcare professionals. Healthcare inspectors score incident investigation reports better over time, suggesting that hospitals conduct better investigations or have become adept at writing reports in line with inspectors’ expectations. Our qualitative data suggests the IRS contributed to practices that support social and participative learning—the professionalisation of incident investigation teams, the increased involvement of patients and families in investigations—and practices that do not—not linking learning from the investigation teams to that of professionals, not consistently monitoring the recommendations that investigations identify. The IRS both hits and misses the mark. We learned that IRSs need to be responsive to the (developing) capabilities of healthcare providers to investigate and learn from incidents, if the IRS is to stimulate social and participative learning from incidents.

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Keywords Incident reporting, Organizational theory, Patient safety, Regulation, Social and participative learning
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Journal Health Policy
de Kam, D. (David), Kok, J. (Josje), Grit, K.J, Leistikow, I.P, Vlemminx, M. (Maurice), & Bal, R.A. (2020). How incident reporting systems can stimulate social and participative learning: A mixed-methods study. Health Policy. doi:10.1016/j.healthpol.2020.05.018