Safety Events Impacting Hospitalized Patients Following Motor Vehicle Crashes: A Qualitative Study of Reports From Pennsylvania Hospitals




motor vehicle crash, motor vehicle accident, trauma, patient safety, pregnancy complication, patient transfers, communication breakdown


Visual abstract motor vehicle crashesMotor vehicle crashes (MVCs) are a significant cause of morbidity and mortality in the United States and around the world. When a patient who has experienced trauma in an MVC presents to the emergency department, they may be unable to participate in their own care due to numerous factors, such as being unconscious, physically incapacitated, or suffering from confusion. To better characterize challenges with care of these patients, we analyzed reports of patient safety events submitted to the Pennsylvania Patient Safety Reporting System (PA-PSRS) related to MVCs, and we identified 282 reports for analysis that occurred from 2018–2020. Patients were more often male (58.9%; 166 of 282) than female (41.1%; 116 of 282), and they ranged in age from 1 to 93 years. A total of 13.1% (37 of 282) of reports were classified as serious events (i.e., events that resulted in patient harm), compared with 2.9% in the full acute care PA-PSRS database. Problems with monitoring or treatment were most common (43.3%; 122 of 282), followed by problems with evaluation (18.4%; 52 of 282), falls (11.7%; 33 of 282), problems with documentation (7.4%; 21 of 282), medication errors (7.4%; 21 of 282), and problems with transfers (6.4%; 18 of 282). Some potential contributing factors included communication breakdowns, lack of policies or protocols or unawareness about existing policies or protocols for treating certain patient populations, and prioritization of conditions related to an MVC over underlying health conditions.

Author Biography

Elizabeth Kukielka, PharmD, MA, RPh, Patient Safety Authority

Elizabeth Kukielka ( is a patient safety analyst on the Data Science and Research team at the Patient Safety Authority. Before joining the PSA, she was a promotional medical writer for numerous publications, including Pharmacy Times and The American Journal of Managed Care. Kukielka also worked for a decade as a community pharmacist and pharmacy manager, with expertise in immunization delivery, diabetes management, medication therapy management, and pharmacy compounding.


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image of upside down red suv.



How to Cite

Kukielka, E. (2021). Safety Events Impacting Hospitalized Patients Following Motor Vehicle Crashes: A Qualitative Study of Reports From Pennsylvania Hospitals. Patient Safety, 3(3), 18–27.



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