Identifying and Understanding Ways to Address the Impact of Racism on Patient Safety in Health Care Settings

RAND Corporation


When entering the health care system, all patients deserve freedom from accidental or preventable injuries produced by medical care. But there is strong evidence that the incidence of patient safety events, which the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality defines as preventable errors, injuries, or harm to a patient during the process of health care, varies across patients from different racial and ethnic backgrounds. Patients of color are more likely to experience some types of these events. There is growing sentiment that racism may play a critical role in patient safety events, though this area is understudied.

With support from CHCF, RAND Corporation and MedStar Health Research Institute researchers examined the intersection of patient safety and racism with a focus on clinician leaders’ perspectives. The work investigated the impact of racism and other related factors on patient safety events, and explored potential changes in policy and practice that can help prevent people of color from being overrepresented in such events.

Visit the RAND Corporation website to read the full report, which summarizes a literature review, interviews with subject matter experts, and recommendations for advancing the fields of patient safety and health equity with a specific focus on dismantling racism.

What is the role of racism in patient safety events? New @RANDhealth @MedStarResearch study examines this intersection and makes recs for building a health care culture that advances patient safety and health equity… Click To Tweet

About the Authors

Lucy B. Schulson, MD, MPH, is an associate physician policy researcher at the RAND Corporation. Angela D. Thomas, DrPH, MPH, MBA, is vice president of health care delivery research at the MedStar Health Research Institute. Jeannette Tsuei is an assistant policy researcher at RAND Corporation, and Jason M. Etchegaray, PhD, is a senior behavioral social scientist at RAND Corporation. This work was conducted within the Quality Measurement and Improvement Program in RAND Health Care, a division of the RAND Corporation, which promotes healthier societies by improving health care systems in the United States and other countries.