Over one year, 544 families of children on a single ward at British Columbia's Children's Hospital were asked to answer a questionnaire about adverse events and near misses during their hospital stay.
The purpose of the study was to test whether the new family reporting system would change the rate of reporting of adverse events by health-care providers.
The study found that family reporting did not alter the rate of safety reports by health-care providers.
A total of 321 adverse events were identified by families. Almost half were deemed by independent clinical experts who reviewed the data as legitimate 'near misses' or to have caused some degree of patient harm.
Only 2.5 per cent of the adverse events reported by families were reported by health-care providers.
Of the 321 events reported, 139 families received apologies for the incidents.
"We found that families observe and report safety problems differently than do health-care providers," researchers said. "Further research is needed to delineate how best to harness the potential of families to improve the safety of the health-care system."