Skip Navigation U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
Agency for Healthcare Research Quality
Archive print banner

Agency News and Notes

This information is for reference purposes only. It was current when produced and may now be outdated. Archive material is no longer maintained, and some links may not work. Persons with disabilities having difficulty accessing this information should contact us at: Let us know the nature of the problem, the Web address of what you want, and your contact information.

Please go to for current information.

AHRQ director issues two statements on patient safety issues

Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality Director Carolyn M. Clancy, M.D., recently issued two statements in support of initiatives to improve patient safety. The new initiatives were launched by the Institute of Medicine (IOM) and the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO).

In the first statement, Dr. Clancy commends the IOM Committee on Data standards for Patient Safety for development of the report, Patient Safety: Achieving a New Standard for Care. The report, which was requested and funded by AHRQ, provides timely input on a subject of critical importance to everyone in the health care field: how to continue improving patient safety and how best to harness information technology to achieve that goal.

Dr. Clancy notes that Secretary Thompson and all HHS agencies and programs share the common goal of ensuring that patients aren't harmed in the course of receiving care. As she points out, we agree with the IOM that a National Health Information Infrastructure is an essential tool for improving health care safety and quality and that it should be the highest priority for all health care stakeholders.

HHS has played a leadership role in fostering the development of data standards and making investments to identify and speed the adoption of new technologies throughout the health care system. HHS leadership of the Consolidated Health Informatics Initiative and support for the National Health Information Infrastructure have resulted in the adoption of standards for Federal programs and fostered critical collaboration with the private sector to establish consensus on new coding and messaging standards essential to enabling information sharing within and across health care organizations.

Further, with the President's FY 2004 budget, HHS will provide $50 million in funding through AHRQ for activities to demonstrate the role of information technology in improving patient safety and quality. This funding will go to grants, contracts, and other projects to speed the adoption of information technology solutions in hospitals and communities, including dollars specifically earmarked for efforts in rural and small community hospital settings. HHS will also spend $10 million to accelerate the adoption and diffusion of data standards and an additional $3 million to continue efforts to promote the development of the National Health Information Infrastructure.

This new IOM report provides input that will assist with other ongoing patient safety improvement programs, including HHS work on a consolidated patient safety database and AHRQ's current patient safety research aimed at identifying how to improve safety and move those findings into practice.

Editor's Note: Select the Announcements section of Research Activities to find out about a new RFA for health information technology projects aimed at improving patient safety and quality of care.

In the second statement, Dr. Clancy saluted JCAHO for the development and implementation of protocols to reduce surgical complications and improve patient safety. JCAHO's new universal protocol and guidelines for preventing wrong site, wrong procedure, wrong person surgery represent a major safety advance. Further, the protocol and guidelines also provide an opportunity to take steps right now to address a persistent but preventable surgical problem.

AHRQ and all agencies and programs within HHS share the common goal of ensuring that patients receive safe health care that is free from medical errors. Among the keys to achieving that goal is designing systems that standardize procedures where possible and institute a consistent approach to similar tasks. However, to facilitate their implementation, those procedures must also be adaptable for special situations and settings. As Dr. Clancy noted, JCAHO's protocols have the unique value of providing clear and unambiguous standards, while allowing for maximum flexibility in their adoption and use. She reiterated AHRQ support for JCAHO's new protocols as one means of achieving that important goal.

For additional information on the surgical protocol, select

Return to Contents
Proceed to Next Article

The information on this page is archived and provided for reference purposes only.


AHRQ Advancing Excellence in Health Care