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The Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI) and the National Patient Safety Foundation (NPSF) began working together as one organization in May 2017, committed to using its combined knowledge and resources to focus and energize the patient safety agenda in order to build systems of safety across the continuum of care.


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The timeline below details milestones and achievements of NPSF during its 20-year history as an independent, not-for-profit organization.

A Central Voice for Patient Safety

The National Patient Safety Foundation began as an idea proposed in 1996 at a large conference on medical error that was organized by the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Medical Association, and the Annenberg Center for Health Sciences at Eisenhower Medical Center in California. At that meeting, representatives of the AMA, the country’s premier physician organization, announced plans to form a foundation that would be “a collaborative initiative involving all members of the healthcare community aimed at stimulating leadership, fostering awareness, and enhancing patient safety knowledge creation, dissemination and implementation.” NPSF would be broader in scope, but similar in concept and mission, to its predecessor, the Anesthesia Patient Safety Foundation, which focuses on the perioperative arena.

Since then, NPSF has had a history of acting as a central voice for the advancement of patient safety in the US and worldwide.

Brief Timeline


  • With support of its founding sponsors—the American Medical Association, CNA/HealthPro, 3M, and Schering-Plough Corporation—NPSF becomes an independent, not-for-profit organization with its own governance structure.
  • Among the Foundation’s first activities is a survey, conducted by Louis Harris & Associates, which finds that more than 100 million Americans have been touched by what they consider medical mistakes.


  •  First NPSF Research Grants announced. One grant funded research into auditory warning signals in critical care settings; the second studied quantitative measurement of the progression of clinical expertise.
  • Patient Safety ListServ is established.


  • Declaring the safe use of pharmaceuticals to be a national health priority, NPSF establishes a National Steering Committee on Pharmaceutical Safety.


  • NPSF launches a new Patient Safety Awards Program; NPSF develops a Statement of Principle (the Universal Patient Compact) in response to requests from patients and their families and distributes it to every hospital in the US.


  • The Annenberg III conference, on the role of communication in health care error and patient safety, “Let’s Talk,” is convened by the National Patient Safety Foundation and the Annenberg Center for Health Sciences. Annual conferences thereafter become the NPSF Annual Patient Safety Congress.
  • NPSF joins with the American Hospital Association to create the AHA-NPSF Patient Safety Leadership Fellowship, a year-long, low-residency program for health care professionals seeking to advance their expertise in patient safety, quality, and performance improvement. 
  • NPSF founds its Patient and Family Advisory Council (PFAC); and launches its Corporate Council program.


  • NPSF introduces an ambulatory surgery consensus initiative and releases Phase I Final Report of this initiative. 



  • NPSF joins with Alaris Medical Systems to create a five-year fellowship for nurses, the Cardinal Health Patient Safety Leadership Fellowship Scholarship.


  • The Foundation’s governance structure is redesigned to broaden representation and input of all stakeholders committed to enhancing patient safety.


  • NPSF creates the Lucian Leape Institute to serve as a strategic think tank on matters related to patient safety. The Institute is named for, and is chaired by, Dr. Lucian Leape, renowned patient safety leader and member of the Institute of Medicine’s Quality of Care in America Committee, which published To Err Is Human: Building a Safer Health System in 1999 and Crossing the Quality Chasm in 2001.
  • The Ambulatory Stand Up for Patient Safety program is introduced for ambulatory centers, in conjunction with a broad initiative sponsored by NPSF, the Medical Group Management Association, and AIG Healthcare.


  • National Patient Safety Foundation re-affirms the Universal Patient Compact.





  • NPSF introduces a comprehensive, online Patient Safety Curriculum for health care professionals seeking to enhance their knowledge of patient safety science and best practices.
  • NPSF creates a separate nonprofit organization, the Certification Board for Professionals in Patient Safety, to oversee professional certification in patient safety through creation and administration of an evidence-based certifying examination. In the first year, more than 300 professionals achieve certification.


  • Tejal Gandhi, MD, MPH, CPPS, joins NPSF as President, also serving as President of CBPPS and of the National Patient Safety Foundation’s Lucian Leape Institute.


  • The NPSF Lucian Leape Institute and founding Chairman Lucian Leape, MD, receive the AACN Pioneering Spirit Award for international leadership in patient safety.
  • NPSF President and CEO Tejal Gandhi, MD, MPH, CPPS, and other experts in the patient safety field testify before the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Labor, Education & Pensions on the need to improve patient safety. Read more.

  • NPSF President and CEO Tejal K. Gandhi, MD, MPH, CPPS, is named to Modern Healthcare magazine's list of 100 Most Influential People in Healthcare.


  • The NPSF Lucian Leape Institute publishes Shining a Light: Safer Health Care Through Transparency, which outlines broad recommendations for increasing openness throughout the health care system as a means of improving safety.

  • NPSF President and CEO Tejal K. Gandhi, MD, MPH, CPPS, is named by Modern Healthcare magazine as one of the Top 25 Women in Healthcare for 2015 and one of the 50 Most Influential Physician Executives.

  • Dr. Gary Kaplan, chairman and CEO of Virginia Mason Health System, is named chair of the NPSF Lucian Leape Institute. Dr. Leape become immediate past chair and remains an active member. Read more.

  • In December, NPSF issues a report looking at the state of patient safety 15 years after the landmark report To Err Is Human: Building a Safer Health System. The report calls for total systems safety and a culture of safety in health care to accelerate progress.



  • NPSF introduces an online Career Center to help organizations find qualified patient safety professionals and to help health professionals find new opportunities.
  • In March, the Institute for Healthcare Improvement and NPSF announce plans for a merger, which takes effect May 1, 2017.


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