Patient Safety Organizations Program


Patient Safety Organizations (PSOs) conduct activities to improve the safety and quality of patient care. PSOs create a legally secure environment (conferring privilege and confidentiality) where clinicians and health care organizations can voluntarily report, aggregate, and analyze data, with the goal of reducing the risks and hazards associated with patient care. The Patient Safety and Quality Improvement Act of 2005 (Patient Safety Act) authorized the creation of PSOs and the development of Common Formats for uniform reporting of patient safety events.

Go to the AHRQ PSO Web site.


PSOs serve as independent, external experts who can assist providers in the collection, analysis, and aggregation of patient safety events to develop insights into effective methods to improve quality and safety. Providers who establish relationships with a PSO receive uniform Federal protections (conferring privilege and confidentiality) that are expected to remove fear of legal liability or professional sanctions.

Learn how PSOs have shared quality improvement and patient safety best practices nationwide.


AHRQ provides the following services and/or resources:

Interested Parties

Those who may be interested in learning more about PSOs include health care professionals and providers who work directly with a PSO as well as policymakers and researchers.

Settings of Care

PSOs can be involved in any health care setting where licensed professionals deliver health care.

Participating Agencies and Institutions

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office for Civil Rights is responsible for the confidentiality protections of the Patient Safety Act. Select for information on how to file a patient safety confidentiality complaint.

AHRQ convenes the Federal interagency Patient Safety Workgroup (PSWG) to assist with developing and maintaining the Common Formats. The PSWG currently includes—

  • Major health agencies within HHS.
  • Department of Defense (Health Affairs).
  • Department of Veterans Affairs (Veterans Health Administration).

Through a contract with AHRQ, the National Quality Forum (NQF) solicits feedback on each version of the Common Formats from private sector organizations and individuals and then convenes an expert panel to review the comments and provide feedback. Based upon the expert panel's feedback, AHRQ and the PSWG further revise the Common Formats.

Go to the AHRQ PSO Web site.

Page last reviewed March 2018
Page originally created August 2013
Internet Citation: Patient Safety Organizations Program. Content last reviewed March 2018. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, MD.
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