To promote a safety culture and reduce harm, health care systems are adopting high-reliability organization (HRO) principles. This rapid review synthesizes HRO frameworks, metrics, and implementation effects to help inform health systems’ efforts toward becoming HROs.
Bibliographic databases were searched from 2010 to 2019. One reviewer used prespecified criteria to assess articles for inclusion, evaluate study quality, extract data, and grade strength of evidence with second reviewer checking.
Twenty-three articles were identified: 8 described frameworks, 9 examined metrics, and 9 evaluated implementation outcomes. Five common strategies for HRO implementation emerged (developing leadership, supporting a culture of safety, providing training and learning, building data systems, and implementing quality improvement interventions). The Joint Commission’s and Institute for Healthcare Improvement’s frameworks emerged as the most comprehensive and widely applicable. The Joint Commission’s Oro 2.0 metric for evaluating HRO progress similarly stood out as it was developed through broad stakeholder input and was validated by external researchers. Multicomponent HRO interventions delivered for at least 2 years were associated with improved process and patient safety outcomes. Because each HRO intervention was only supported by a single poor or fair-quality study—none of which contained a concurrent control group—a causal relationship between any HRO initiative and outcomes could not be established.
Health care system adoption of HRO principles is associated with improved safety outcomes, yet the level of evidence is low. Priorities for future HRO studies include use of concurrent control groups and examination of specific outcomes measurements.