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Int J Qual Health Care. 2006 Sep;18 Suppl 1:14-20.

Selecting indicators for patient safety at the health system level in OECD countries.

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  • 1Health Foundation, London, UK.



Concerns about patient safety have arisen with growing documentation of the extent and nature of harm. Yet there are no robust and meaningful data that can be used internationally to assess the extent of the problem and considerable methodological difficulties.


This article describes a project undertaken as part of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) Quality Indicator Project, which aimed at developing an initial set of patient safety indicators.


Patient safety indicators from OECD countries were identified and then rated against three principal criteria: importance to patient safety, scientific soundness, and potential feasibility. Although some countries are developing multi-source monitoring systems, these are not yet mature enough for international exchange. This project reviewed routine data collections as a starting point.


Of an initial set of 59 candidate indicators identified, 21 were selected which cover known areas of harm to patients.


This project is an important initial step towards defining a usable set of patient safety indicators that will allow comparisons to be made internationally and will support mutual learning and quality improvement in health care. Measures of harm should be complemented over time with measures of effective improvement factors.

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