Building an Ambulatory Safety Program at an Academic Health System

Sonali Desai, Karen Fiumara, Allen Kachalia

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


BACKGROUND: Patient safety has traditionally focused on the inpatient setting; however, there is an increased awareness of ambulatory safety risk. However, successful strategies and programs to mitigate risk in the ambulatory setting are lacking. PROGRAM: In 2012, we started building a multidisciplinary ambulatory safety program at an academic health system. Our team was composed of clinical, administrative, and patient safety membership. Based on organizational needs, our program initially focused on the following: (1) safety reporting, (2) safety culture measurement, (3) medication safety, and (4) test result management. WHAT WE DID: We were able to develop initiatives around safety reporting, safety culture survey administration, and medication safety and begin to work on test result management. Internal metrics were developed to measure performance and to drive improvement. SAFETY REPORTING: When evaluating our ambulatory safety reports, we discovered that less than one-third of staff filing safety reports requested feedback. From 2013 to 2018, we tested various strategies to increase the rates of feedback to staff and ultimately found that a decentralized process that was supported by the ambulatory safety program could achieve rates of feedback of 90%. SAFETY CULTURE MEASUREMENT: We administered the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality Medical Office Survey in 2012, 2014, and 2016, achieving a more than 70% response rate across 70 unique ambulatory areas. Data from these surveys were shared with senior hospital leadership, local departmental directors, and managers and ultimately with frontline staff focusing on two key survey areas: communication openness and communication about error. MEDICATION SAFETY: From 2012 to 2014, our rates of ambulatory medication reconciliation increased to more than 90% in both primary care and specialty practices in our homegrown electronic medical record system. From 2015 to 2016, rates of ambulatory medication reconciliation in our new vendor-based electronic medical record were 73% as of August 2017. CONCLUSIONS: We were able to build an infrastructure to focus and support ambulatory safety efforts on safety reporting, safety culture change, and medication reconciliation with a team dedicated to ambulatory-focused safety risks and encountered many challenges along the way. Currently, we are expanding our program to concentrate on test result follow-up to prevent missed and delayed diagnosis and medication error reduction.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)e84-e90
JournalJournal of patient safety
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 1 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Leadership and Management
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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