How research became a priority for patient safety
On 1 November 2005, in collaboration with the Agency for Health Care Research and Quality (USA), WHO convened an international meeting to assess the need for a global program on research on patient safety. In Washington, DC, over 40 international experts were brought together, from fields such as health systems research, patient safety, quality management and health care organization; several major research funding institutions and international agencies were also present, and patients whose family had suffered from adverse clinical events were invited to address the assembly.
The meeting identified a vast array of challenges. First and foremost, it is essential to involve patients in all aspects of research on patient safety. Much may be gained by learning from other industries and establishing alliances with other research areas, although specific methods and measures need to be developed in order to evaluate the extent and causes of patient harm, which remain largely unknown in most countries. New, innovative interventions are required, as well as appropriate mechanisms to evaluate them. Comprehensive economic assessments of patient safety remain necessary, linked to a study of incentives and barriers to safer health care. This touches not only on health economics, but also on human behaviour and the psychology of organizations. Throughout all these fields, the problem of insufficient funding for research was highlighted by the experts.
The meeting urged the World Alliance for Patient Safety to set up its own research programme, whose ambition is to build on the pioneering work accomplished in a handful of countries. Since gaps in knowledge and knowledge communication remain numerous, specific research projects are called for in several countries, in particular to evaluate the extent and nature of patient harm (prevalence studies). Finally, the experts called for increased global collaboration in all fields of patient safety research, and for better transmission of information between research institutes and policy makers.