Prevention of a wrong-location misadministration through the use of an intradepartmental incident learning system

Eric C. Ford, Koren Smith, Kendra Harris, Stephanie Terezakis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


Purpose: A series of examples are presented in which potential errors in the delivery of radiation therapy were prevented through use of incident learning. These examples underscore the value of reporting near miss incidents. Methods: Using a departmental incident learning system, eight incidents were noted over a two-year period in which fields were treated out-of-sequence, that is, fields from a boost phase were treated, while the patient was still in the initial phase of treatment. As a result, an error-prevention policy was instituted in which radiation treatment fields are hidden within the oncology information system (OIS) when they are not in current use. In this way, fields are only available to be treated in the intended sequence and, importantly, old fields cannot be activated at the linear accelerator control console. Results: No out-of-sequence treatments have been reported in more than two years since the policy change. Furthermore, at least three near-miss incidents were detected and corrected as a result of the policy change. In the first two, the policy operated as intended to directly prevent an error in field scheduling. In the third near-miss, the policy operated off target to prevent a type of error scenario that it was not directly intended to prevent. In this incident, an incorrect digitally reconstructed radiograph (DRR) was scheduled in the OIS for a patient receiving lung cancer treatment. The incorrect DRR had an isocenter which was misplaced by approximately two centimeters. The error was a result of a field from an old plan being scheduled instead of the intended new plan. As a result of the policy described above, the DRR field could not be activated for treatment however and the error was discovered and corrected. Other quality control barriers in place would have been unlikely to have detected this error. Conclusions: In these examples, a policy was adopted based on incident learning, which prevented several errors, at least one of which was potentially severe. These examples underscore the need for a rigorous, systematic incident learning process within each clinic. The experiences reported in this technical note demonstrate the value of near-miss incident reporting to improve patient safety.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)6968-6971
Number of pages4
JournalMedical physics
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2012


  • incident learning
  • patient safety
  • radiation therapy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biophysics
  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging


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