AHRQ releases latest version of Common Formats to standardize data collection

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AHRQ releases latest version of Common Formats to standardize data collection

The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) has released Common Formats Version 1.1, including technical specifications, which will help hospitals further standardize the collection and reporting of data related to patient safety events. Patient safety events include unsafe conditions, near misses, and incidents of harm. The technical specifications included in this release will help software developers assist hospitals in reporting these types of data electronically, said the AHRQ.

?These technical specifications specify rules for data collection and submission and provide guidance for how data elements are created, their valid values, conditional and go-to logic, and reports,? said William Munier, MD, director of AHRQ?s Center for Quality Improvement and Patient Safety. ?We hope these specifications will be very helpful in expediting the development of software to automate the Common Formats.?

The Common Formats were originally developed in conjunction with Patient Safety Organizations (PSO), launched in early 2009. PSOs are a product of the Patient Safety and Quality Improvement Act of 2005 and were anxiously awaited by many in the patient safety field. The Common Formats offer hospitals stronger data analysis and solutions surrounding quality- and patient safety?related errors, enabling them to create better systems for patient care. There were 79 PSOs listed on the AHRQ?s Web site in April.

PSOs submit data into a national registry, called the Network of Patient Safety Databases, which analyzes the data at a higher level for nationwide benchmarking. These de-identified data must be submitted using the Common Formats, so they are easy to compare.

Version 1.0 of the Common Formats was released in September 2009, shortly after PSOs began to form and partner with hospitals wanting analysis conducted on their adverse events. However, the AHRQ recognized that the initial version needed refinement and continued to work through February 2010 to develop Version 1.1 of the Common Formats. Version 1.1 is available only for acute care facilities, although there are versions in development for other settings. There are both generic and event-specific formats. The event-specific formats include blood or blood product, device or medical-surgical supply, falls, healthcare-associated infection, medication or other substance, perinatal, pressure ulcer, and surgery or anesthesia.

Version 1.1 contains: 

  • Descriptions of patient safety events and unsafe conditions to be reported
  • Specifications for patient safety aggregate reports and individual event summaries
  • Delineation of data elements to be collected for different types of events
  • A user?s guide 
  • Technical specifications for collection and reporting of electronic data 


The technical specifications also offer guidance, including flow charts, a data dictionary, and clinical documentation architecture guideline. For more information, visit