Objectives: Safer care is a strategic priority for health care organizations worldwide. Yet, the measurement and evaluation of key processes and outcomes associated with safer care remains challenging, even with existing performance measurement indicators. The multi-national Quality Indicator Project (QI Project) data are analysed to  document the patterns of safety indicators used between 1999 and 2006 among hospitals in Asia, Europe and the USA; and  to identify trends in using both organization-level and patient-level data in hospital performance improvement.
Design and setting: Retrospective data are used to ascertain how the use of safety indicators has changed in comparison to other QI Project indicators. 'Continent' rather than 'hospital' is used as the unit of analysis and P-values of the differences in use percentages across Asia, Europe and the USA are calculated.
Results: There was a significant increase in the use of QI Project indicators in Asia between 1999 and 2006. Measured as the mean percentage of usage, the safety versus 'all other' indicators' increase in Asia was 43.7% versus 27% (P < 0.05) and 37.2% versus 24.4% (P < 0.05), respectively, during the study's time period. The European participants used both safety and all other indicators less frequently, 14.7% versus 18% (P < 0.05) and 9.5% versus 19.8% (P < 0.05), respectively. Finally, USA hospitals demonstrated a larger difference in the decrease of QI Project indicator use than European hospitals between the 'safety' and 'all other' indicators, 12.7% decrease for safety indicators and 7.1% for all others (P < 0.05). These findings are consistent with trends reported in a previous study.
Conclusion: Traditional performance measures continue to assist hospitals in identifying crucial aspects of safety in the delivery of care. Building on the findings of a previous study, there are emerging trends in the type of measures used in hospitals in Asia, Europe and the USA pursuing the improvement of overall performance. The increasing use of patient-level data specifically, in tandem with organizational level indicators, may signal the continuum of measurement strategies, now still predominantly in the USA but anticipated to be adopted both in Europe and Asia.