Improving patient safety across a large integrated health care delivery system

Int J Qual Health Care. 2003 Dec;15 Suppl 1:i31-40. doi: 10.1093/intqhc/mzg075.


Objective: Patient safety is moving up the list of priorities for hospitals and health care delivery systems, but improving safety across a large organization is challenging. We sought to create a common patient safety strategy for the Partners HealthCare system, a large, integrated, non-profit health care delivery system in the United States.

Design: Partners identified a central Patient Safety Officer, who then formed a Patient Safety Advisory Group with local expert members, as well as a Patient Safety Leaders Group comprised of personnel responsible for patient safety at each member institution. The latter group meets monthly to help determine future projects and to share the results of piloting and implementation. There was broad consensus that interventions should include the areas of culture change, process change, and process measurement.

Setting: A large, integrated health care delivery system in the Boston, Massachusetts, area.

Results: Key milestones to date include implementation of Executive WalkRounds, development of accountability principles, agreement to create a common system-wide adverse event reporting system, and agreement to implement computerized physician order entry in all hospitals. These efforts have heightened awareness of patient safety considerably within the network. Most influenced to date have been the senior leaders of the hospitals, which has resulted in substantial support for patient safety initiatives.

Conclusions: This loosely integrated delivery system represents a daunting landscape for the development and institution of patient safety concepts. Many projects aimed at different components of patient safety must occur at the same time for significant change, yet culture and care-related beliefs vary substantially within the system, and measurement is especially challenging. Moreover, with many potential interventions, and limited resources, prioritization and selection is difficult. Nonetheless, consensus about some issues has been reached, in particular because of a well delineated patient safety structure. We believe the net result will be substantial improvement in patient safety.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Boston
  • Delivery of Health Care, Integrated / standards*
  • Hospital Information Systems
  • Humans
  • Institutional Management Teams
  • Leadership*
  • Medical Errors / prevention & control*
  • Organizational Case Studies
  • Organizational Culture
  • Planning Techniques
  • Process Assessment, Health Care
  • Quality Assurance, Health Care / organization & administration*
  • Safety Management / organization & administration*
  • Social Responsibility