Exploring Changes in Patient Safety Incidents During the COVID-19 Pandemic in a Canadian Regional Hospital System: A Retrospective Time Series Analysis.


The COVID-19 pandemic has placed unprecedented strain on healthcare systems and may have consequential impacts on patient safety incidents (PSIs). The primary objective of this study was to examine the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on PSIs reported in Niagara Health. Flexible Farrington models were used to retrospectively detect weeks from January to September 2020 where PSI counts were significantly above expected counts. Incident counts were adjusted to weekly inpatient-days. Outcomes included overall incident numbers, incidents by category, and incidents by ward type. The overall number of PSIs across Niagara Health did not increase during the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, significant increases in falls were observed, suggesting that other types of incidents decreased. Falls increased by 75% from February to March 2020, coinciding with the onset of the first wave of the pandemic. Further investigation by unit type revealed that the number of falls increased specifically on internal medicine and complex continuing care wards. Despite no observed changes in overall number, significant composition shifts in PSIs occurred during the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, with increased falls on internal medicine and complex continuing care wards. Possible explanations include restrictions on patient visitation, reduced patient contact/supervision, and/or personal protective equipment requirements. Providers should maintain a particularly high vigilance for patient falls during pandemic outbreaks, and hospitals should consider targeting resources to higher-risk locations. The results of this study reinforce the need for ongoing pandemic PSI monitoring and rapidly adaptive responses to new patient safety concerns.

Journal of Patient Safety, 78(4)
Stephenson Strobel
Stephenson Strobel
PhD candidate in Public Policy

Stephenson is a doctoral candidate in public policy at Cornell University. He has research interests in health economics and physician behaviour.