Common Formats

The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) coordinates the development of Common Formats for event reporting to Patient Safety Organizations (PSOs). This activity is authorized by the Patient Safety and Quality Improvement Act of 2005 (the Patient Safety Act). The Common Formats optimize the opportunity for the public and private sectors to learn more about trends and patterns in patient safety, with the purpose of improving health care quality. The Common Formats will:

•Accelerate development of the ability to aggregate comparable patient safety information to identify new opportunities for safety improvement
•Increase the willingness of health care providers to participate in such efforts
•Set the stage for breakthroughs in understanding how best to improve patient safety 

To read the Common Formats notice published in the Federal Register Click here.

What Are Common Formats?

The term Common Formats is used to describe the technical requirements and reporting specifications that allow health care providers to collect and submit standardized information regarding patient safety events. The scope of Common Formats will apply to all patient safety concerns including:

  • Incidents—patient safety events that reached the patient, whether or not there was harm;
  • Near misses or close calls—patient safety events that did not reach the patient; and
  • Unsafe conditions.

AHRQ's Common Formats include:

  • Descriptions of patient safety events and unsafe conditions to be reported,
  • Delineation of data elements to be collected for different types of events,
  • Examples of patient safety population reports,
  • A metadata registry with data element attributes and technical specifications,
  • Paper forms to allow immediate implementation, and
  • A users guide.
How Did AHRQ Develop the Common Formats?
AHRQ convened an interagency Federal Patient Safety Work Group (PSWG) to develop the Common Formats. The PSWG includes major health agencies within the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)—the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, Food and Drug Administration, Health Resources and Services Administration, Indian Health Service (IHS), National Institutes of Health, Office of the National Coordinator, Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration—as well as the Department of Defense (DoD) and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).
The PSWG reviewed existing patient safety event reporting systems from a variety of health care organizations (select for list). After this review, the PSWG developed draft Common Formats and made them available for pilot testing within DoD, IHS, and VA facilities. These pilot tests were designed to provide guidance to the PSWG to refine and revise the Common Formats.

How Will the Data be Used?

The Patient Safety Act provided for the Secretary of HHS to facilitate the creation of a network of patient safety databases, to which PSOs, providers, or others can voluntarily contribute nonidentifiable patient safety work product. This network will be maintained as an interactive, evidence-based management resource for providers, PSOs, and other entities. The statute directs AHRQ to use data from the network to analyze national and regional statistics, including trends and patterns, regarding patient safety events. Findings are to be made public and included in AHRQ's annual National Healthcare Quality Report.

*From the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality