Cardiff Metropolitan University
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Analysis of applying a patient safety taxonomy to patient and clinician-reported incident reports during the COVID-19 pandemic: a mixed methods study

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posted on 2023-11-02, 13:08 authored by Thomas Purchase, Alison Cooper, Delyth Price, Emma Dorgeat, Huw Williams, Paul Bowie, Jean-Pascal Fournier, Peter Hibbert, Adrian Edwards, Rhiannon PhillipsRhiannon Phillips, Natalie Joseph-Williams, Andrew Carson-Stevens


The COVID-19 pandemic resulted in major disruption to healthcare delivery worldwide causing medical services to adapt their standard practices. Learning how these adaptations result in unintended patient harm is essential to mitigate against future incidents. Incident reporting and learning system data can be used to identify areas to improve patient safety. A classification system is required to make sense of such data to identify learning and priorities for further in-depth investigation. The Patient Safety (PISA) classification system was created for this purpose, but it is not known if classification systems are sufficient to capture novel safety concepts arising from crises like the pandemic. We aimed to review the application of the PISA classification system during the COVID-19 pandemic to appraise whether modifications were required to maintain its meaningful use for the pandemic context.


We conducted a mixed-methods study integrating two phases in an exploratory, sequential design. This included a comparative secondary analysis of patient safety incident reports from two studies conducted during the first wave of the pandemic, where we coded patient-reported incidents from the UK and clinician-reported incidents from France. The findings were presented to a focus group of experts in classification systems and patient safety, and a thematic analysis was conducted on the resultant transcript.


We identified five key themes derived from the data analysis and expert group discussion. These included capitalising on the unique perspective of safety concerns from different groups, that existing frameworks do identify priority areas to investigate further, the objectives of a study shape the data interpretation, the pandemic spotlighted long-standing patient concerns, and the time period in which data are collected offers valuable context to aid explanation. The group consensus was that no COVID-19-specific codes were warranted, and the PISA classification system was fit for purpose.


We have scrutinised the meaningful use of the PISA classification system’s application during a period of systemic healthcare constraint, the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite these constraints, we found the framework can be successfully applied to incident reports to enable deductive analysis, identify areas for further enquiry and thus support organisational learning. No new or amended codes were warranted. Organisations and investigators can use our findings when reviewing their own classification systems.





  • VoR (Version of Record)


Purchase, T., Cooper, A., Price, D., Dorgeat, E., Williams, H., Bowie, P., Fournier, J.P., Hibbert, P., Edwards, A., Phillips, R. and Joseph-Williams, N. (2023) 'Analysis of applying a patient safety taxonomy to patient and clinician-reported incident reports during the COVID-19 pandemic: a mixed methods study', BMC Medical Research Methodology, 23(1), p.234.

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Cardiff Met Affiliation

  • Cardiff School of Sport and Health Sciences

Cardiff Met Authors

Rhiannon Phillips

Cardiff Met Research Centre/Group

  • Public Health and Wellbeing
  • Applied Psychology and Behaviour Change

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  • © The Authors


  • en

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