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Patient Safety 101: The Fundamentals

What is Patient Safety?

The breadth of the field of patient safety is captured in various definitions. It has been defined as avoiding harm to patients from care that is intended to help them.1 It involves the prevention and mitigation of harm caused by errors of omission or commission in healthcare, and the establishment of operational systems and processes that minimize the likelihood of errors and maximize the likelihood of intercepting them when they occur.2

Learn More in the Patient Safety 101 Primer
A nurse and her patient, a person washing their hands over a sink, and 2 medical professionals looking at a tablet.

Primers Starter Pack

Update Date: September 17, 2021

Curated by the PSNet Editoral Team, our Featured Primers in the "Primer Starter Pack" are the recommended must read for all users of PSNet. These Primers cover foundational topics such as medication errors, adverse events, and diagnostic errors.

High-reliability organizations consistently minimize adverse events despite carrying out intrinsically hazardous work. Such organizations establish a culture of safety by maintaining a commitment to safety at all levels, from frontline providers to... Read More

Patient safety event reporting systems are ubiquitous in hospitals and are a mainstay of efforts to detect safety and quality problems. However, while event reports may highlight specific safety concerns, they do not provide insights into the... Read More

Human factors engineering is the discipline that attempts to identify and address safety problems that arise due to the interaction between people, technology, and work environments.

Medicine has traditionally treated errors as failings on the part of individual providers, reflecting inadequate knowledge or skill. The systems approach, by contrast, takes the view that most errors reflect predictable human failings in the context... Read More

Health care organizations use a variety of established and emerging methods to prospectively identify safety hazards before errors have occurred and to retrospectively analyze errors to prevent future harm.

High reliability organizations are organizations that operate in complex, high-hazard domains for extended periods without serious accidents or catastrophic failures. High reliability is an ongoing process of cultivating organizational mindfulness;... Read More

The terms adverse events, near misses, and medical errors are used in patient safety to refer to events where patients were harmed (or easily could have been).

Measuring patient safety is a complex and evolving field, and achieving accurate and reliable measurement strategies remains a challenge for the safety field.

This Primer provides an overview of the history and current status of the patient safety field and key definitions and concepts. It links to other Patient Safety Primers that discuss the concepts in more detail.