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Incident reporting: science or protoscience? Ten years later
  1. H Kaplan1,
  2. P Barach2
  1. 1Professor of Pathology and Director, Laboratory Medicine, Columbia University College of Physicians & Surgeons, New York, USA
  2. 2Assistant Professor, Center for Patient Safety, University of Chicago, Chicago, IL 60637, USA
  1. Correspondence to:
 Dr P Barach, Center for Patient Safety, University of Chicago, Chicago, IL 60637, USA;

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Beginning with this issue, QSHC will reprint important studies and reports that have made significant contributions to the fields of patient safety and quality improvement. In this series we will focus on papers that shaped our thinking and are described as seminal or as landmarks. Some of these papers we know about but may be inaccessible, while some we have forgotten but are so wise that modern generations can benefit from reading them. We will invite commentary to reflect on the context and contribution of these seminal papers to these fields. We encourage readers to suggest papers that have helped shape their thinking. We look forward to your suggestions.


You can see a lot just by observing.” Yogi Berra

Almost a decade ago a special edition of Anaesthesia and Intensive Care devoted to the Australian Incident Monitoring System carried an evocative editorial by William Runciman entitled “Qualitative versus quantitative research—balancing cost, yield and feasibility”.1 It convincingly asserted the value of qualitative research in proving the value of pulse oximetry while recognizing the “gold standard” status of the prospective double blind crossover clinical trial. As a bonus, this valuable new knowledge was gained at far less cost than that required by a clinical trial. Pulse oximetry is considered today the gold standard for patient monitoring. However, clinical trials have yet to show that pulse oximetry monitoring improves patient outcomes. On the other hand, qualitative data such as incident reports have been the cornerstone for mandating the use …

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