Patient Safety in Primary Care: Conceptual Meanings to the Health Care Team and Patients

J Am Board Fam Med. 2020 Sep-Oct;33(5):754-764. doi: 10.3122/jabfm.2020.05.200042.


Introduction: Patient safety in primary care is an emerging priority, and experts have highlighted medications, diagnoses, transitions, referrals, and testing as key safety domains. This study aimed to (1) describe how frontline clinicians, administrators, and staff conceptualize patient safety in primary care; and (2) compare and contrast these conceptual meanings from the patient's perspective.

Methods: We conducted interviews with 101 frontline clinicians, administrators and staff, and focus groups with 65 adult patients at 10 patient-centered medical homes. We used thematic analysis to approach coding.

Results: Findings indicate that frontline personnel conceptualized patient safety more in terms of work functions, which reflect the grouping of tasks or responsibilities to guide how care is being delivered. Frontline personnel and patients conceptualized patient safety in largely consistent ways.

Discussion: Function-based conceptualizations of patient safety in primary care may better reflect frontline personnel and patients' experiences than domain-based conceptualizations, which are favored by experts.

Keywords: Administrative Personnel; Focus Groups; Patient Safety; Patient-Centered Care; Practice-Based Research; Primary Health Care; Qualitative Research; Referral and Consultation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Attitude of Health Personnel
  • Female
  • Focus Groups
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Patient Care Team
  • Patient Safety*
  • Patients / psychology
  • Patients / statistics & numerical data
  • Primary Health Care*
  • Young Adult