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Quality and safety by design
  1. J B Battles
  1. Correspondence to:
 Dr J B Battles
 Senior Service Fellow for Patient Safety, Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), Center for Quality Improvement and Patient Safety, 540 Gather Road, Rockville, MD 20850, USA; James.Battles{at}


Rather than continuing to try to measure the width and depths of the quality chasm, a legitimate question is how does one actually begin to close the quality chasm? One way to think about the problem is as a design challenge rather than as a quality improvement challenge. It is time to move from reactive measurement to a more proactive use of proven design methods, and to involve a number of professions outside health care so that we can design out system failure and design in quality of care. Is it possible to actually design in quality and design out failure? A three level conceptual framework design would use the six quality aims laid out in Crossing the quality chasm. The first or core level of the framework would be designing for patient centered care, with safety as the second level. The third design attributes would be efficiency, effectiveness, timeliness, and equity. Design methods and approaches are available that can be used for the design of healthcare organizations and facilities, learning systems to train and maintain competency of health professionals, clinical systems, clinical work, and information technology systems. In order to bring about major improvements in quality and safety, these design methods can and should be used to redesign healthcare delivery systems.

  • patient safety
  • quality improvement
  • design
  • medical error

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  • Competing interests: none declared.

  • The opinions and assertions contained herein are the private views of the author and are not to be construed as official or as reflecting the views of the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, the United States, Department of Health and Human Services.