Putting the Patient in Patient Safety Investigations: Barriers and Strategies for Involvement

Isolde Martina Busch, Ankita Saxena, Albert W. Wu

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Objectives In an adverse event investigation, the patients have the potential to add a unique perspective because they can identify contributing factors that providers may miss. However, patients are rarely included in patient safety investigations. We aimed to identify the barriers to patient involvement in patient safety investigations and propose strategies to overcome them. Methods We reviewed literature on active participation by patients in safety investigations to construct a framework for healthcare institutions to use in approaching patients about a potential role in investigating an error in their care. We searched 3 electronic databases (PubMed, PSNet, Web of Science) for the years 1990 to 2018, without restrictions to language. Search terms included: "patient empowerment, "patient involvement,""patient participation,""patient safety investigation,""root cause analysis,""error analysis."We also examined reference lists of relevant studies to identify additional articles. Results Our electronic search produced 10,624 records with 30 potentially eligible articles. However, we identified only 6 relevant published articles. We used these as the basis for a proposed framework that is predicated on the thoughtful disclosure of adverse events and has 3 main levels (i.e., patient, clinician, and institutional level). For each level, we identify barriers to patient participation and potential strategies to overcome them. Conclusions The proposed framework can be used as a starting point to promote patient involvement in error investigations. Involving patients in patient safety investigations could increase patient centeredness, patient autonomy, and transparency and make analyses more effective by adding unique and potentially actionable information.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)358-362
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of patient safety
Issue number5
StatePublished - 2021


  • adverse events
  • incident reporting and analysis
  • patient empowerment
  • patient involvement
  • patient participation
  • patient-centered care
  • transparency

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Leadership and Management


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