Assessing patient safety in the United States: challenges and opportunities

Med Care. 2005 Mar;43(3 Suppl):I42-7. doi: 10.1097/00005650-200503001-00007.


Background: In 1999, the US Congress mandated the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), to report annually to the nation about healthcare quality. One chapter in the National Healthcare Quality Report (NHQR) is focused on patient safety.

Objectives: The objectives of this study were to describe the challenges in reporting the national status on patient safety for the first NHQR and discuss emerging opportunities to improve the comprehensiveness and reliability of future reporting.

Research design: This study is a selective review of definitions, frameworks, data sources, measures, and emerging developments for assessing patient safety in the United States.

Results: Available data and measures for patient safety assessment in the nation are inadequate, especially for comparing regions and subpopulations and for trend analysis. However, many opportunities are emerging from the recently increased investments in patient safety research and many ongoing safety improvement efforts in the private sector and at the federal, state, and local government levels.

Conclusion: There are many challenges in assessing national performance on patient safety today. Ongoing developments on multiple fronts will provide data and measures for more accurate and more comprehensive assessments of patient safety for future NHQRs.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Annual Reports as Topic
  • Cross Infection / prevention & control
  • Data Collection
  • Humans
  • Medicaid
  • Medical Errors / prevention & control
  • Medical Records Systems, Computerized
  • Medicare
  • Patients* / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Quality Assurance, Health Care*
  • Safety Management
  • Safety*
  • United States
  • United States Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality*