Patient perceptions of safety in primary care: a qualitative study to inform care

Curr Med Res Opin. 2021 Nov;37(11):1991-1999. doi: 10.1080/03007995.2021.1976736. Epub 2021 Sep 22.


Patients' perspectives on patient safety have rarely been incorporated into quality initiatives in primary care. Our objective was to understand the patient perspective on patient safety in patient-centered medical homes (PCMHs). We conducted 12 patient focus groups/interviews in nine sites with 65 patients at a geographically diverse sample of National Committee on Quality Assurance Level 3 recognized PCMHs across three states. Using a patient safety framework, we coded and analyzed interviews for overarching themes and subthemes across patient safety domains. Overarching themes focused on (1) both clear and timely communication with and between clinicians and (2) trust in the care team, including being heard, respected, and treated as a whole person. Other themes important to specific patient safety domains included sharing of and access to information, patient education and patient-centered medication reconciliation process, clear documentation for the diagnostic process, patient-centered comprehensive visits, and timeliness of care. Communication and trust are key to patient perceptions of safe primary care. Focusing on these themes across safety domains may help to make primary care both more patient-centered and safer, and should be considered in future ambulatory safety initiatives.

Keywords: Patient perspective of safety; communication; patient-centered medical home; patient-centered primary care; qualitative research; trust.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Communication
  • Humans
  • Patient-Centered Care*
  • Perception
  • Primary Health Care*
  • Qualitative Research