Patient Safety: Building Resilient and Highly Reliable Systems in Healthcare

By Donna M. Prosser, Chief Clinical Officer,  Patient Safety Movement Foundation

The COVID pandemic has placed an incredible strain upon global healthcare systems. Clinicians are exhausted, resources are stretched thin, and healthcare leaders are struggling to meet staffing needs. At the same time, much of our hard-won efforts to improve patient safety have broken down during the past two years, and in many cases, patients are at even more risk for harm than they were before the pandemic started. 

This happened not just because of the surge in patients and the severity of illness associated with COVID, but also because our safety efforts have largely been focused on improving care processes in specific patient populations rather than on creating highly reliable systems in the past. Although these population-specific improvements have drastically reduced some healthcare acquired infections, surgical mistakes, and medication errors, healthcare has not yet become as reliable as other high-risk industries. High reliability organizations (HROs) are resilient and can deftly manage crises when they occur, a skill that we have not yet learned in healthcare. Until we do, patients and those who care for them will continue to be at risk for harm.

The Patient Safety Movement Foundation is a non-profit, global organization with the bold goal of eliminating preventable harm and death in healthcare by 2030. There are three things that we focus on to help us to achieve this goal: 

  1. We forge global relationships, partnerships, and collaboratives to actively promote change for patient safety.
    We know that we cannot do this alone, so we ask everyone to commit to ZERO harm. Any organization, whether a hospital, physician office, long-term care facility, professional society, university, or any other business or non-profit who is interested in advancing patient safety, can make a formal commitment on our website. There is no cost to join, and those who do will receive a badge that can be proudly displayed in marketing materials and websites. These organizations will also be added to our database, sharing their commitment with the world!

  2. We develop and disseminate patient safety education to governing bodies, healthcare professionals, students, patients, families, and the public.
    Actionable Patient Safety Solutions (APSS) are freely available on our website. These include Improvement Blueprints for healthcare organizations on 50 different patient safety topics, educational content, videos, articles, and tools for patients and families, and student experiences for graduate and doctoral candidates. We also provide free coaching for improvement teams in organizations that are committed to ZERO.

  3. We create public demand for safe and highly reliable healthcare.
    At the PSMF, we believe that the only way we will achieve ZERO is for every healthcare organization to become as highly reliable as other high-risk industries, such as aviation and nuclear power. This will require a significant shift in care systems and processes, which will happen much more quickly if the public demands it. We generate public awareness annually through our #uniteforsafecare campaign on September 17th, World Patient Safety Day. We hear from those who have been harmed and publish patient stories on our website to remind us that there are real people behind the statistics, whose lives have been changed forever by preventable medical harm. Our PSMF Ambassadors are passionate clinicians, administrators, patients, advocates, and more who are helping us to spread the word across the globe about what we can all do to improve patient safety, and our PSMF Healthcare Safety Fellowship is preparing the next generation of leaders who will create the highly reliable systems of the future.


There are many ways that you can get involved if you are interested. Besides downloading our APSS and attending our events, you can join a workgroup and help us to produce our APSS, send us your students, apply to become an ambassador, apply for the PSMF Healthcare Safety Fellowship program, or donate to help us continue to produce our free programs.

At some point, we will all be patients, so it’s in all our best interests to create reliable, resilient systems in healthcare. Join the Movement today and help us keep your patients, your family and yourself safe from preventable medical harm and death!

About Arab Health

Arab Health is the largest healthcare event in the Middle East and is organised by Informa Markets. Established in 1974, Arab Health provides a platform for the world’s leading manufacturers, wholesalers and distributors to meet the medical and scientific community in the Middle East and subcontinent.

The upcoming edition of the event is expected to welcome the healthcare industry to view the latest healthcare innovations, products and services, and experience the highest quality Continuing Medical Education (CME) conferences for medical professionals in the region.

Interested in participating in Arab Health?

If you have any other queries, email us on [email protected]