POLICY CORNER: An inside look at the most pressing policy issues


On Feb. 16, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) listed SHM as a patient safety organization (PSO). A PSO serves as an independent, external, expert organization that can collect, analyze, and aggregate information in order to develop insights into the underlying causes of patient-safety events. PSOs are designed to help clinicians, hospitals, and healthcare organizations improve patient safety and the quality of healthcare delivery.

PSO status allows SHM’s current quality-improvement (QI) activities to be conducted in a secure environment that is protected from legal discovery. AHRQ currently lists 78 PSOs, including the Society for Vascular Surgery PSO, the Emergency Medicine Patient Safety Foundation, and the Biomedical Research and Education Foundation. A full list is available at www.pso.ahrq.gov/listing/psolist.htm.

To achieve PSO status, SHM worked closely with AHRQ to meet specific guidelines and requirements. One of the requirements is that the mission and primary activity of a PSO must be to conduct activities that are designed to improve patient safety and the quality of healthcare delivery.

To comply, SHM formed a separate component within the Quality Initiatives Department strictly to pursue patient safety and quality activities.

The SHM PSO will be unique. While PSOs are required to collect patient-safety data and provide some form of feedback to contracted sites, few have their own QI initiatives, and even fewer are established by a national physician’s professional society.

These differences will help the SHM PSO stand out from the crowd and will present opportunities within the healthcare reform framework. The Affordable Care Act (ACA) requires significant QI among the nation’s hospitals.

Specifically pertaining to PSOs, Section 399KK, a rarely mentioned section of the ACA, requires the Health and Human Services to establish a program for hospitals with high readmission rates to improve their rates through the use of PSOs. The details of this program remain unclear, but based upon the little bit of information currently available, there could be positive overlap between SHM’s Project BOOST (Better Outcomes for Older Adults through Safe Transitions) and the provision.

AHRQ’s recognition of the SHM PSO exemplifies SHM’s commitment to improving the quality of healthcare delivery. It also provides additional value to sites that implement SHM’s QI initiatives and will hopefully open new doors to SHM’s members. TH

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