All Saudi hospitals to report serious errors online


I don't have any first hand experience with the country, but I have had many requests for the free first chapters of my books (Lean Hospitals  and Healthcare Kaizen) from Saudi Arabia over the past few years. I'm certain there would be some Lean thinking and Lean practices in that country's hospitals.

This news story made me think of a Lean topic – reporting errors for the purposes of problem solving and improvement, as opposed to using such information for punishment. The story titled “Hospitals to report serious errors online” talks about a new national reporting system – something that patient safety advocates like Captain Sully Sullenberger have called for here in the U.S. (listen to his friend, and mine, Naida Grunden, talk about this in my podcast with her).

From the story:

All hospitals in the Kingdom, whether government or private, will have to report online any serious medical error, said Health Minister Abdullah Al-Rabeeah yesterday at the launch of his ministry's electronic portal for health services.

“The portal contains a system to receive reports of such errors from hospitals. Once these reports are in the system, we are automatically notified of them by SMS at the same time,” the minister said.

“This will keep us informed round the clock of all the serious medical events taking place in our hospitals and how they are handled and whether there is need for further intervention,” he added.

The idea of a text message going to the Health Minister immediately reminds me of the great Alcoa CEO Paul O'Neill (now a patient safety advocate – here my podcast with him) and how he, as the CEO, as notified of any safety problem within just a few hours.

How will this information be used?

“We are not aiming to detect medical errors simply to punish. We want to eliminate such errors and improve performance. Failure to report such events will subject the hospital to further sanctions, and this will apply to all hospitals,” the minister said.

Whether that's driven by the Lean philosophy, something like “Just Culture,” or other aspects of the patient safety movement, it's “like Lean” thinking to me.

What would it take to get a system like that in the United States, at the state or federal level? In Canada, at the provincial or national level? Or, in other countries? Who else currently has a system like that?

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Mark Graban
Mark Graban is an internationally-recognized consultant, author, and professional speaker, and podcaster with experience in healthcare, manufacturing, and startups. Mark's new book is The Mistakes That Make Us: Cultivating a Culture of Learning and Innovation. He is also the author of Measures of Success: React Less, Lead Better, Improve More, the Shingo Award-winning books Lean Hospitals and Healthcare Kaizen, and the anthology Practicing Lean. Mark is also a Senior Advisor to the technology company KaiNexus.


  1. Not exactly the same thing, but in the news today:

    Celebrities make pitch for patient safety panel

    An independent entity modeled after the National Transportation Safety Board could transform patient safety, proponents argue. Skeptics say the agency would be redundant.


  2. I’m an experienced lean thinker with proven record. Currently I’m working in Riyadh-Saudi Arabia. However, my skills are in industrial and construction lean operations but not to health. If you think I can be of use, when the need arises, please call on me.

  3. Mark,

    the American Society of Radiation Oncology (ASTRO) together with the FDA and support from the American Association of Physicists in Medicine (AAPM) are working to create such a database:

    Ironically, this is duplicating work that has been done for the ROSIS database in Europe already ( Radiation Oncology is a very small and overall a very safe field, and therefore would have benefitted from faster accrual by pooling data. The legal and cultural environment is not conducive to international collaboration to happen on a timescale that is desirable.

    Creating a useful database is not an easy task, even when legal barriers are removed. To set up the database for data mining and quality analysis, the database structure has to be carefully designed. Errors have to be classified using a good taxonomy.


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