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A Public Health Approach to Patient Safety Reporting Systems Is Urgently Needed

Noble, Douglas J. MRCS, MPH*; Panesar, Sukhmeet S. BSc, MBBS; Pronovost, Peter J. MD, PhD, FCCM

doi: 10.1097/PTS.0b013e31821b8a6c
Review Article

Patient safety reporting systems (PSRSs) currently operate at local, regional, and national levels within health care. This article analyzes 6 different PSRSs using a World Health Organization and public health classification system. Patient safety incidents (PSIs) are reported, analyzed, mitigated, and evaluated in a variety of different ways. This results in a reduced ability to accurately compare PSIs between different PSRSs, to monitor trends in PSIs, or to reliably translate and learn from information between any individual PSRS. By applying principles from basic public health research and infectious disease surveillance systems, these hurdles may be overcome and the full potential of PSRSs could be realized.

From the *Barts and The London School of Medicine and Dentistry; †National Patient Safety Agency, London, UK; and ‡Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine/Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore, Maryland.

Correspondence: Douglas J. Noble, MRCS, MPH, Healthcare Innovation and Policy Unit, Barts and The London School of Medicine and Dentistry, Queen Mary, University of London, Abernethy Building, 2 Newark St, London E1 2AT, UK (e-mail:

The authors have no conflict of interest.

© 2011 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.