Purposes and Differences Between Incident Reports and Logs and Narrative Reports Term Paper

Download this Term Paper in word format (.doc)

Note: Sample below may appear distorted but all corresponding word document files contain proper formatting

Excerpt from Term Paper:

logs and narrative-only reports is commonplace in a number of public and private sectors, including law enforcement and health care where they are used to codify different types of events for different purposes. Irrespective of the setting and purpose, though, these types of written records can play a vital role in keeping track of important events and establishing accountability for future analysis or investigation. To gain some fresh insights in this area, this paper provides an explanation concerning the purposes of and differences between incident reports, logs, and narrative only reports. A discussion concerning the five rules of narrative report writing is followed by a summary of the research and important findings concerning the importance of honest, factual report writing.

Review and Discussion

Incident Reports

As the term implies, an "incident report" is intended to capture the important details of an untoward incident of some type. In a tertiary health care setting, for example, incident reports may be required for all cases of patients falling (whether they injure themselves or not), for medication and blood transfusion errors, fires and instances of patient abuse (Berntsen, 2004). Unlike the continuous recording of events as with logs which are described further below, incident reports are single documents that are completed at the time of an incident and then submitted to higher authorities for analysis and action. According to Berntsen (2004), in health care settings, "Incident reports are not part of the patient record and are not shared with patients. The reports are protected from legal discovery and are generally not released outside of the hospital" (p. 44). In many cases, incident reports are carefully controlled by the quality assurance and risk management services within the medical facility (Berntsen, 2004).

It is important to trend incident reports with respect to type of incident, place of occurrence, and the responsible parties. In health care settings, for example, tracking and trending the number of medication errors may help identify a single provider who is responsible for the majority of such errors. Similarly, tracking and trends crime data by type, time and location can likewise help identify patterns that can help formulate effective law enforcement responses. For this purpose, many law enforcement agencies and health care organizations are turning to specialized incident reporting software, but the same type of results can be obtained through manual recordation (albeit with more work) as long as care is given to the accuracy of the above-mentioned details. In addition, some practitioners have used existing software tools such as Lotus Notes or Excel to develop their own customized incident reporting programs (Brenner & Freundlich, 2006). For example, one customized incident report program is based in Lotus Notes and "uses e-mail to route incident reports from direct service staff to supervisors and administrators, facilitates timely clinical oversight and risk management and ensures the security of clients' protected health information" (Brenner & Freundlich, 2006, p. 612).

In fact, most authorities agree that computer-based tracking is the only truly effective method of tracking incident reports, particularly in larger organizations. In this regard, Berntsen (2004) reports that, "Some hospitals still use handwritten incident reports, which are labor-intensive to read and interpret. As information databases improve, hospitals will most likely improve their ability to track alarming trends. Currently, such trends may be lost amid the volume of handwritten paperwork" (p. 44). Further, compliance with national and international health care accrediting agencies frequently requires the use of automated incident reporting programs (Brenner & Freundlich, 2006)


Logs consist of a series of entries in a record in a temporally linear fashion that describes all types of specified occurrences. In some cases, federal and state laws mandate the keeping of logs by some public and private sector organizations such as utility companies and defense industries (Sikura, 2002). Likewise, logs that are maintained in bound versions are traditionally known as logbooks which are commonly used in the transportation industry to record certain types of events. For instance, Black's Law Dictionary (1990) defines a logbook as "a ship's or aircraft's journal containing a detailed account of the ship's course, with a short history of every occurrence during the voyage" (p. 942). Likewise, long-haul truckers keep a logbook of when they service their vehicles, how much fuel was consumed, when and how long they stop to rest, any accidents that were experienced, and so forth.

Narrative-Only Reports

The use of narrative-only reports is also commonplace in health care settings where physicians and radiologists may dictate their diagnoses and prescribed treatment in a standard format as well as in law enforcement where these types of reports are completed in response to certain types of crimes or for specific purposes (Wells, 2003). With respect to a narrative-only report for a fraud investigation, for example, Wells (2003) points out that the report should be prepared with the potential audience in mind. In this regard, Wells advises that, "As with any written communication, the process of documenting the details of an investigation begins with an understanding of who is going to read it. A fraud report may be shared with company insiders, attorneys, defendants and witnesses, judges, juries and the media" (p. 75).

Because narrative-only reports typically concern alleged crimes or torts wherein guilt or innocence has not yet been established, it is critical that the authors of these reports limit the information to what is actually known and to avoid conjecture and opinions unless these are specifically requested as with an expert witness. For instance, Wells (2003) emphasizes that practitioners preparing narrative-only reports must "presume from the outset that many in the legal community will scrutinize whatever [they] write" and that "there is no such thing as a 'confidential' investigative report, no matter how it is titled" (p. 76). Just as anyone who has zapped off an email while angry can testify, written records are permanent records that must be crafted with care. In this regard, Wells cautions that, "Some people learn the hard way that if you put something in writing, you might as well carve it on Mount Rushmore -- both are permanent" (2003, p. 76).

The five conventional rules of narrative report writing, capturing the "who, what, where, when and why" aspects of the event, should be supplemented with five additional standards as follows:

1. Accuracy. The report must be accurate, devoid of mistakes in dates, amounts, spelling or even in recording the most seemingly unimportant facts or details. Carelessness leaves the entire report open to question and criticism.

2. Clarity. Use clear language not subject to various interpretations.

3. Impartiality. Do not add bias or foregone conclusions. Avoid expressing opinions -- let the facts speak for themselves and let others interpret them.

4. Relevance. In every investigation the investigator uncovers facts not relevant to the case; he or she should exclude such information.

5. Timeliness. Investigators should prepare reports during the course of the investigation and not long after the fact. An investigator who does not prepare a report on a timely basis runs the risk of omitting or distorting important data (Wells, 2003, p. 77).


The utility of incident reports, logs and narrative-only reports depends on how they are used. In some cases, a single incident report, log entry, or narrative-only report may be sufficient to effect meaningful change (such as a physician recommending a life-saving change in protocol as the result of a medication error or the capture of public enemy no. 1 based on the findings of a narrative-only report). In most other applications, though, these written records are only useful to the extent that they are able to provide aggregated data that can be analyzed to discern meaningful patterns. In the case of incident reports, this is a straightforward proposition. Adverse patient events are simply assigned alphanumeric codes and these data are included in…[continue]

Cite This Term Paper:

"Purposes And Differences Between Incident Reports And Logs And Narrative Reports" (2013, September 21) Retrieved December 8, 2016, from http://www.paperdue.com/essay/purposes-and-differences-between-incident-96861

"Purposes And Differences Between Incident Reports And Logs And Narrative Reports" 21 September 2013. Web.8 December. 2016. <http://www.paperdue.com/essay/purposes-and-differences-between-incident-96861>

"Purposes And Differences Between Incident Reports And Logs And Narrative Reports", 21 September 2013, Accessed.8 December. 2016, http://www.paperdue.com/essay/purposes-and-differences-between-incident-96861

Other Documents Pertaining To This Topic

  • Linux Operating System Analyzing and

    Storage management, creating and maintaining a file system, and integrating them into networks also share a common set of functions that allow for programmer flexibility in terms of their use and sequencing through an application. These functions are specifically called as part of the kernel of the Linux operating system, and as a result they can be selectively updated very quickly. A full recompile of the entire operating system

  • Promising Phenomenon That Lends Itself

    66). Furthermore, social software will only increase in importance in helping organizations maintain and manage their domains of knowledge and information. When networks are enabled and flourish, their value to all users and to the organization increases as well. That increase in value is typically nonlinear, where some additions yield more than proportionate values to the organization (McCluskey and Korobow, 2009). Some of the key characteristics of social software applications

  • Security Agip Kazakhstan North

    They need to know what their responsibilities are not only as individuals but also as team members and corporate employees. David cites an excerpt from a corporate security document that illustrates his point: "A security policy serves many functions. It is a central document that describes in detail acceptable network activity and penalties for misuse. A security policy also provides a forum for identifying and clarifying security goals and

  • Forest Fire Management Systems and

    It was then important to see the degree at which technology and training played a role in combating each fire. 1.2.4.Rationale of the Study What is that can be gained from this study? The reasoning behind such a study is born out of a need to provide better training for fire fighters so that fire management systems will improve and reduce the amount of loss due to the fire. By studying

  • Synthetic Biology Most Eminent Mr

    While this is a future that is heralded by some as the next logical step in our own evolution -- why let it occur haphazardly and slowly if it can be accomplished through careful planning and design? -- others see this stance as full of dangerous hubris, and an insistence that humanity knows best despite the fact that it has shown itself time and time again willing to grossly

  • Reading Improvement of Third Grade Students

    Reading Improvement in Third Grade Students Applied Dissertation Proposal for the Degree of Doctor of Education Making resources available to the third grade students and teachers lends itself to the appropriate data, types of instruments, and instructional strategies used to enhance education. Wilson School leaders are getting acquainted with reading resources that are beneficial in order to provide teachers with test data, reading instruments, and specific strategies to assist them in raising

Read Full Term Paper
Copyright 2016 . All Rights Reserved