Towards an International Classification for Patient Safety: a Delphi survey

Int J Qual Health Care. 2009 Feb;21(1):9-17. doi: 10.1093/intqhc/mzn055.


Objective: Interpretation and comparison of patient safety information have been compromised by the lack of a common understanding of the concepts involved. The World Alliance set out to develop an International Classification for Patient Safety (ICPS) to address this, and to test the relevance and acceptability of the draft ICPS and progressively refine it prior to field testing.

Design: Two-stage Delphi survey. Quantitative and qualitative analyses informed the review of the ICPS.

Setting: International web-based survey of expert opinion.

Participants: Experts in the fields of patient safety, health policy, reporting systems, safety and quality control, classification theory and development, health informatics, consumer advocacy, law and medicine; 253 responded to the first round survey, 30% of whom responded to the second round.

Results: In the first round, 14% felt that the conceptual framework was missing at least one class, although it was apparent that most respondents were actually referring to concepts they felt should be included within the classes rather than the classes themselves. There was a need for clarification of several components of the classification, particularly its purpose, structure and depth. After revision and feedback, round 2 results were more positive, but further significant changes were made to the conceptual framework and to the major classes in response to concerns about terminology and relationships between classes.

Conclusions: The Delphi approach proved invaluable, as both a consensus-building exercise and consultation process, in engaging stakeholders to support completion of the final draft version of the ICPS. Further refinement will occur.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Concept Formation
  • Delivery of Health Care / standards
  • Delphi Technique*
  • International Cooperation*
  • Medical Errors / prevention & control
  • Safety Management / classification*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires