How To Choose a PSO

Are you eligible to work with a PSO?

An individual or entity licensed or otherwise authorized under State law to provide healthcare services may work with one or several PSOs.

Is the PSO “listed” (approved) by AHRQ?

If the PSO is not listed, privilege and confidentiality protections of the Patient Safety Act will not apply. To find out if a PSO is listed, visit AHRQ’s Web site section on Listed PSOs. It is updated weekly.

How do you find an AHRQ-listed PSO that meets your needs?

AHRQ has created a list to help you select a PSO. If you want to find out more about a listed PSO, you can search for one using several criteria, such as geographic location, area of specialty (e.g., anesthesiology, pediatrics), resources provided, etc. If you prefer, you can work with multiple PSOs.

Are you seeking specialized expertise?

Some PSOs specialize by topic area, such as anesthesia or medication adverse events, so you may want to start your search by looking for PSOs that specialize in that area. However, larger PSOs that handle all kinds of patient safety events may also have access to the expertise you seek. Providers can opt to work with more than one PSO, depending on their needs.

Where is the PSO located?

Because the legal protections are national in scope, PSOs can work with providers nationwide. Providers may prefer to work with a PSO that is based in their state or geographic area.

What other providers are working with the PSO?

Consider the type and number of providers who work with the PSO. For example, you may want to work with a PSO that contracts with providers who offer similar services. If one of your goals is to develop insights for rare cases or sentinel events, another relevant question is “how many providers are actually reporting data to the PSO?”

How does the PSO protect data?

It is important to understand what the PSO does to protect data by asking to review the PSO’s security policies. It is important to also confirm that your contract complies with HIPAA, if you are reporting Protected Health Information (PHI) to the PSO. Likewise, you will want to confirm that any agreement PSOs have with contractors comply with HIPAA.

Does the PSO use the NPSD?

The NPSD (Network of Patient Safety Databases) aggregates nonidentifiable information on patient safety (not traceable to any specific facility, provider, reporter, or patient) on a national basis to discern quality and safety problems and their solutions, more quickly and effectively. The more data that PSOs submit, the more we can learn about improving patient safety.

Does the PSO use AHRQ’s Common Formats?

PSOs are required to collect and analyze data in a standardized manner. AHRQ created the Common Formats (forms using common definitions and reporting formats) to facilitate the collection and reporting of patient safety events and to improve healthcare providers’ efforts to eliminate harm. Read more about Common Formats.

Other factors to consider when selecting a PSO:

  • Which type of analysis and what services does the PSO offer, and are they valuable to you?
  • Does the PSO plan to make disclosures of your protected information (for example, to external contractors)? The rule permits a provider and a PSO to contractually agree to greater confidentiality than the Patient Safety Rule provides.
  • How does the PSO stay up to date about current patient safety practices, and how does it get help if it has questions?
  • Will the PSO help you set up your patient safety evaluation system?
  • Can the PSO clearly explain the requirements of the Patient Safety Rule?
Page last reviewed November 2020
Page originally created January 2014

Internet Citation: How To Choose a PSO. Content last reviewed November 2020. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, MD.

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