Building a Culture of Patient Safety

In 2015, the American Board of Ophthalmology (ABO) called upon leaders in ophthalmology and in medicine to launch a critical new initiative centered on building a culture of patient safety. Partnering with the American Academy of Ophthalmology, the ABO aimed to create awareness about the growing importance of patient safety issues in healthcare. Participants included the American Association for Pediatric Ophthalmology, American Glaucoma Society, American Society of Ophthalmic Registered Nurses, American Society of Ophthalmic Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, American Society of Retinal Specialists, Association of University Professors of Ophthalmology & Retina Society, Cornea Society, United States Department of Defense, National Patient Safety Foundation, North American Neuro-Ophthalmology Society, Ophthalmic Mutual Insurance Company, and Ophthalmology Residency Review Committee.

Watch Now

On March 12, 2016, the Board hosted a live Patient Safety webcast to engage the ophthalmic community in this timely and important discussion. This webcast featured talks by noted patient safety expert Robert Wachter, MD; prominent ophthalmologists George Bartley, MD; Philip Custer, MD, FACS; Louis Cantor, MD; David Herman, MD; Paul Lee, MD, JD; Claude Cowan, MD, MPH; and American Board of Ophthalmology Public Director Matthew Fitzgerald, DrPH, with questions submitted from live and online audience members. Watch the webcast on-demand now and log in to your MOC Status Page claim this activity for Patient Safety MOC credit.

ABO Patient Safety Values Statement

As physicians and ophthalmic professionals, we are committed to practicing safely and eliminating error and harm to our patients, families and workforce. We understand that the potential for error and harm occurs across every domain and aspect of healthcare delivery – by good people with certified knowledge and skills and the best intentions. Professionalism and professional self‐regulation require us to increase our focus on patient safety and to educate all members of the eye care team regarding systematic practices to help prevent errors from occurring. We strive to eliminate error and harm and recognize the continuous nature of this challenge. We must do this as a profession by committing both ourselves and our organizations to create and sustain a culture of quality improvement and safety that:


  • The primary commitment of physicians and allied professionals to “First do no harm”;
  • Safety as a unique body of knowledge, expertise and culture that must be applied to the practice of ophthalmology;
  • Safety as a team effort, requiring the accountability and engagement of all and open, respectful communication and behavior between and among team members including our patients and their families;
  • Safety as an attribute of healthcare systems; which minimizes the incidence and impact of, and maximizes recovery from, adverse events (Emanuel, Berwick, et al, 2008);
  • Open, risk‐free communication among all care givers as essential to improving safety; and
  • A culture of safety as a necessary component of our commitment to provide high quality care.

Aims to Promote:

  • The practice of safety and quality improvement and their application to making healthcare safer;
  • The integration of a culture and science of safety into the practice of ophthalmology, ophthalmic medical education and related inter‐professional education programs;
  • The importance in building and cultivating trust and transparency with patients, families, providers and staff;
  • The empowerment of each individual practitioner to become his/her own safety officer;
  • The use of tools, including root cause analysis and failure modes effect analysis, to understand why errors and harm occur and to eliminate error and harm;
  • The development of a non‐punitive and just environment in which we encourage error and near miss reporting so that we may learn from others and are receptive and open to sharing both concerns and ideas; and
  • The proactive identification and amelioration of specific patient and workforce safety issues.


  • The Institute of Medicine’s goal to reduce medical errors and improve both quality and safety in Healthcare;
  • The National Patient Safety Foundation’s mission on reducing errors and harm to patients, families, and the workforce; and
  • The stewardship of the profession, by the profession.