Stories from the sharp end: case studies in safety improvement

Milbank Q. 2006;84(1):165-200. doi: 10.1111/j.1468-0009.2006.00442.x.


Motivated by pressure and a wish to improve, health care organizations are implementing programs to improve patient safety. This article describes six natural experiments in health care safety that show where the safety field is heading and opportunities for and barriers to improvement. All these programs identified organizational culture change as critical to making patients safer, differing chiefly in their methods of creating a patient safety culture. Their goal is a safety culture that promotes continuing innovation and improvement, transcending whatever particular safety methodology is used. Policymakers could help stimulate a culture of safety by linking regulatory goals to safety culture expectations, sponsoring voluntary learning collaborations, rewarding safety improvements, better using publicly reported data, encouraging consumer involvement, and supporting research and education.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Health Facilities*
  • Humans
  • Medical Errors / prevention & control
  • Organizational Case Studies*
  • Organizational Culture*
  • Quality of Health Care
  • Safety Management / organization & administration*
  • United States