SafeCare: An Innovative Approach for Improving Quality Through Standards, Benchmarking, and Improvement in Low- and Middle- Income Countries

Jt Comm J Qual Patient Saf. 2016 Aug;42(8):350-71. doi: 10.1016/s1553-7250(16)42049-0.


Background: In low- and middle-income countries (LMICs), patients often have limited access to high-quality care because of a shortage of facilities and human resources, inefficiency of resource allocation, and limited health insurance. SafeCare was developed to provide innovative health care standards; surveyor training; a grading system for quality of care; a quality improvement process that is broken down into achievable, measurable steps to facilitate incremental improvement; and a private sector-supported health financing model.

Methods: Three organizations-PharmAccess Foundation, Joint Commission International, and the Council for Health Service Accreditation of Southern Africa-launched SafeCare in 2011 as a formal partnership. Five SafeCare levels of improvement are allocated on the basis of an algorithm that incorporates both the overall score and weighted criteria, so that certain high-risk criteria need to be in place before a facility can move to the next SafeCare certification level. A customized quality improvement plan based on the SafeCare assessment results lists the specific, measurable activities that should be undertaken to address gaps in quality found during the initial assessment and to meet the nextlevel SafeCare certificate.

Results: The standards have been implemented in more than 800 primary and secondary facilities by qualified local surveyors, in partnership with various local public and private partner organizations, in six sub-Saharan African countries (Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, Namibia, Tanzania, and Zambia).

Conclusion: Expanding access to care and improving health care quality in LMICs will require a coordinated effort between institutions and other stakeholders. SafeCare's standards and assessment methodology can help build trust between stakeholders and lay the foundation for country-led quality monitoring systems.

MeSH terms

  • Africa South of the Sahara
  • Algorithms
  • Benchmarking*
  • Certification
  • Delivery of Health Care / standards*
  • Developing Countries*
  • Diffusion of Innovation
  • Health Services Accessibility*
  • Health Services Research
  • Humans
  • Quality Improvement*