AHRQ Views

Blog posts from AHRQ leaders

Jeffrey Brady, M.D., M.P.H.

The landscape for Patient Safety Organizations (PSOs) is changing.  In light of a new CMS regulation, one way that qualified health plans may meet new requirements is to contract with hospitals greater than 50 beds if those hospitals use a patient safety evaluation  system (i.e., work with a PSO).  The PSO program, which officially recognizes and lists PSOs, has been administered by AHRQ since passage of the 2005 Patient Safety and Quality Improvement Act. Currently, a total of 81 PSOs operating across the United States have been  leading the charge to improve care. With the new CMS regulation, it is likely more hospitals will be joining PSOs to evaluate and  strengthen  patient safety.

Why is it so important for hospitals to work with PSOs to evaluate their patient safety practices? 

Because achieving better and safer care for hospitalized patients is no small feat. Staff must collect data, identify quality and  safety  problems, design and implement improvement processes, measure change, provide feedback, and continue to support improved  care practices.  Gaining the trust of clinicians is important, because they may fear that this type of information could be used against them.  Candid and complete information often depends on a confidential and safe environment that supports learning and improvement. 

That’s where PSOs can help. PSOs have experts who can collect, analyze, and aggregate clinical data at the local, regional, and national level to develop insights into the underlying causes of patient safety events that might not be obvious when simply looking at one or a few facilities. PSOs typically work with many providers.  The feedback and recommendations from PSOs to providers carry Federal protection from legal disclosure , which fosters more extensive reporting and examination of safety data and improvements in patient care. Hospitals that work with PSOs can also submit non-identifiable data to the Network of Patient Safety Databases to enable aggregation and comparison of data on a national level.

The benefits of working with a PSO are detailed in AHRQ’s Choosing a Patient Safety Organization. The AHRQ brochure also describes factors to consider when choosing a PSO and how to find a listed PSO.

Page last reviewed March 2016
Page originally created February 2016
Internet Citation: The Patient Safety Landscape: How Patient Safety Organizations Are Leading the Charge To Improve Care. Content last reviewed March 2016. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, MD. http://www.ahrq.gov/news/blog/ahrqviews/the-patient-safety-landscape.html