Pa Patient Saf Advis 2009 Jun;6(2):72.     
Patient Safety in Pennsylvania Healthcare Facilities

Patient Safety in Pennsylvania Healthcare Facilities

Since the inception of the Pennsylvania Patient Safety Authority’s reporting system in 2004, the most challenging question asked of the Authority has been whether healthcare in Pennsylvania is becoming safer. To complement its efforts toward this goal, in January 2009, the Authority invited patient safety officers (PSOs) from all reporting facilities in Pennsylvania to participate in a survey initiative to measure the level of adoption of selected safety practices. PSOs from 200 of 525 invited facilities completed the survey, including 118 hospitals (59%), 80 ambulatory surgical facilities (40%), 1 birthing center (0.5%), and 1 abortion facility (0.5%). 

The 37 safety practices were organized into the domains of leadership (4 practices), medication (11 practices), safe surgery (7 practices), infection control (3 practices), device safety (6 practices), patient identification (2 practices), transition of care (1 practice), environment (1 practice), care management (1 practice), and falls prevention (1 practice). Practices were defined according to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, the Joint Commission, and the National Quality Forum and associated with the specific Pennsylvania Patient Safety Advisory articles that advocated them.

Examples of the aggregate results of adopted safety practices under different domains include the following (certain practices may not apply to all facility types):

Leadership. Written instructions for staff about error reporting that include that “just culture” principles are fully implemented throughout the organization (60.5% of participating facilities).

Medication. The organization has established explicit mandatory elements of a telephone or verbal order that includes the use of read-back (83% of participating facilities).

Safe surgery. The organization requires both that the patient (or representative) is involved in confirming the surgical site and that the surgical site mark is made before the patient is sedated (79.5% of participating facilities).

Infection control. An infection control plan that specifies the inspection frequency of patient care areas for handwashing capabilities and availability of supplies is fully implemented throughout the organization (79% of all participating facilities).

Device safety. Prohibition of defibrillator use for routine physiologic monitoring is fully implemented throughout the organization (69% of participating facilities).

Limitations of the survey include that results represent about 38% of reporting facilities in Pennsylvania and may not reflect statewide adoption of practices or may disproportionately represent facilities. Varying interpretation of questions among the participating PSOs may have occurred. Finally, generalizing results from birthing centers and abortion facilities is not possible because of the low response from these facility types. 

In May 2009, PSOs and chief executive officers of participating facilities received a detailed report of survey results comparing the level of adoption of the practices at their facilities with that of similar facilities statewide. The aggregate results of the survey were discussed in the Authority’s 2008 annual report


The Pennsylvania Patient Safety Advisory may be reprinted and distributed without restriction, provided it is printed or distributed in its entirety and without alteration. Individual articles may be reprinted in their entirety and without alteration, provided the source is clearly attributed.

Current and previous issues are available online at

©2019 Pennsylvania Patient Safety Authority