The Hidden Cost of Regulation: The Administrative Cost of Reporting Serious Reportable Events

Bonnie B. Blanchfield, Bijay Acharya, Elizabeth Mort

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Background: More than half of the 50 states (27) and the District of Columbia require reporting of Serous Reportable Events (SREs). The goal is to hold providers accountable and improve patient safety, but there is little information about the administrative cost of this reporting requirement. This study was conducted to identify costs associated with investigating and reporting SREs. Methods: This qualitative study used case study methods that included interviewing staff and review of data and documents to investigate each SRE occurring at one academic medical center during fiscal year 2013. A framework of tasks and a model to categorize costs was created. Time was summarized and costs were estimated for each SRE. Results: The administrative cost to process 44 SREs was estimated at $353,291, an average cost of $8,029 per SRE, ranging $6,653 for an environmental-related SRE to $21,276 for a device-related SRE. Care management SREs occurred most frequently, costing an average $7,201 per SRE. Surgical SREs, the most expensive on average, cost $9,123 per SRE. Investigation of events accounted for 64.5% of total cost; public reporting, 17.2%; internal reporting, 10.2%; finance and administration, 6.0%; and 2.1%, other. Even with 26 states mandating reporting, the 17.2% incremental cost of public reporting is substantial. Conclusion: Policy makers should consider the opportunity costs of these resources, averaging $8,029 per SRE, when mandating reporting. The benefits of public reporting should be collectively reviewed to ensure that the incremental costs in this resource-constrained environment continue to improve patient safety and that trade-offs are acknowledged.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)212-218
Number of pages7
JournalJoint Commission Journal on Quality and Patient Safety
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2018

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Leadership and Management


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