Common Formats

The Common Formats logo is two computers with arrows between them.


PSOs are required to collect and analyze data in a standardized manner. AHRQ created the Common Formats (common definitions and reporting Formats) to help providers uniformly report patient safety events and to improve health care providers’ efforts to eliminate harm. The Formats are broadly divided into two categories: generic ones that apply to all patient safety events and event-specific ones that relate to certain high-frequency event types.

Patient Safety Events—What Gets Reported?

  • Incidents: patient safety events that reached the patient, whether or not there was harm involved.
  • Near misses (or close calls): patient safety events that did not reach the patient.
  • Unsafe conditions: circumstances that increase the probability of a patient safety event occurring.

The AHRQ Common Formats include:

  • Precise definition of patient safety events that comprise all-cause harm
  • Examples of patient safety population reports
  • Paper forms to guide development of data collection instruments
  • A Users Guide which describes how to use the Formats
  • A metadata registry with data element attributes and technical specifications for use by developers.