Towards safer healthcare: qualitative insights from a process view of organisational learning from failure.

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This study adopted a process view of organisational learning to investigate the barriers to effective organisational learning from medical errors. Qualitative data were collected from 40 clinicians in high and low performing hospitals. The fit between the organisational learning process and socio-technical factors was investigated systematically from a pre-reporting stage to reporting and post-reporting stages. The analysis uncovered that the major stumbling blocks to active learning lie largely in the post-reporting stages and that they are rooted in social rather than technical issues. Although the experience of the higher-performing hospital provides valuable pointers in terms of creating more trusting environment and using the potential of small failures towards ways in which the organisational learning process in the lower hospital might be improved, due to lack of local mangers’ proactive engagement in integrating changes into practice the active learning takes place in neither of the hospitals. To ensure that the change solutions are firmly incorporated into the culture and routine practice of the hospital, we need to focus on fostering an organisational culture that encourages positive cooperation and mutual interactions between local managers and frontline clinicians. This process will lead to double-loop learning and an increase in system safety.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere048036
Pages (from-to)1-10
JournalBMJ Open
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 10 Aug 2021


  • change management
  • health & safety
  • health services administration & management
  • organisation of health services
  • quality in health care
  • risk management

Research Beacons, Institutes and Platforms

  • Global Development Institute


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