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AHRQ Provides Guidance on Collecting Quality, Patient Safety Information

Heather Comak, for HealthLeaders Media, April 7, 2010

The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) has released Common Formats Version 1.1, including technical specifications, which will help hospitals further standardize the collection and reporting of data related to patient safety events.

Patient safety events include unsafe conditions, near misses, and incidents of harm. The technical specifications included in this release will help software developers assist hospitals in reporting this type of data electronically, said the AHRQ.

"These technical specifications specify rules for data collection and submission and provide guidance for how data elements are created, their valid values, conditional and go-to logic, and reports," said William Munier, MD, director of AHRQ's Center for Quality Improvement and Patient Safety. "We hope these specifications will be very helpful in expediting the development of software to automate the Common Formats."

The Common Formats were originally developed in conjunction with Patient Safety Organizations (PSO), launched in early 2009. PSOs are a product of the Patient Safety and Quality Improvement Act of 2005 and were anxiously awaited by many in the patient safety field.

The Common Formats offer hospitals stronger data analysis and solutions surrounding quality- and patient safety-related errors, enabling them to create better systems for patient care. There are currently 79 listed PSOs on the AHRQ's Web site.

PSOs submit data into a national registry, called the Network of Patient Safety Databases, which analyzes the data at a higher level, for nationwide benchmarking. This de-identified data must be submitted using the common formats, so they are easy to compare.

The first version of the Common Formats (version 1.0) was released in September 2009, shortly after PSOs began to form and partner with hospitals wanting analysis on their adverse events. However, the AHRQ recognized that they needed refinement and continued to work from them through February 2010 to develop the next version. AHRQ will be soliciting comment on this recently released version, as it did previously.

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