Patient safety in primary care: Conceptual meanings to the health care team and patients

Alden Yuanhong Lai, Christina T. Yuan, Jill A. Marsteller, Susan M. Hannum, Elyse C. Lasser, Ja Alah Ai Heughan, Tyler Oberlander, Zackary D. Berger, Ayse P. Gurses, Hadi Kharrazi, Samantha I. Pitts, Sarah H. Scholle, Sydney M. Dy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Introduction: Patient safety in primary care is an emerging priority, and experts have highlighted medications, diagnoses, transitions, referrals, and testing as key safety domains. This study aimed to (1) describe how frontline clinicians, administrators, and staff conceptualize patient safety in primary care; and (2) compare and contrast these conceptual meanings from the patient’s perspective. Methods: We conducted interviews with 101 frontline clinicians, administrators and staff, and focus groups with 65 adult patients at 10 patient-centered medical homes. We used thematic analysis to approach coding. Results: Findings indicate that frontline personnel conceptualized patient safety more in terms of work functions, which reflect the grouping of tasks or responsibilities to guide how care is being delivered. Frontline personnel and patients conceptualized patient safety in largely consistent ways. Discussion: Function-based conceptualizations of patient safety in primary care may better reflect frontline personnel and patients’ experiences than domain-based conceptualizations, which are favored by experts.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)754-764
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of the American Board of Family Medicine
Issue number5
StatePublished - Oct 2020


  • Administrative Personnel
  • Consultation
  • Focus Groups
  • Patient Safety
  • Patient-Centered Care
  • Practice-Based Research
  • Primary Health Care
  • Qualitative Research
  • Referral

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Family Practice


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