Patient Safety

Our health care system is not as safe as it could—and should—be. Medical error is the third leading cause of death in the United States, after heart disease and cancer, studies show. Advocates are working to build a stronger, safer health care system, but they face significant communications challenges.

To start, patient safety is not on the public’s radar, and Americans and, to a striking degree, health care professionals themselves, don’t fully understand what patient safety is and how to improve it. Members of the public and health care professionals also hold deep beliefs and attitudes about health, health care professionals, systems, and human nature that complicate efforts to communicate about patient safety. To overcome these challenges, the FrameWorks Institute is conducting a program of research designed to test and develop ways to deepen understanding of patient safety and build support for policies and programs that can improve it.


This multi-method, multi-year initiative is sponsored by the Betsy Lehman Center for Patient Safety in Massachusetts.


Safety Is More than Caring: Mapping the Gaps between Expert, Public, and Health Care Professional Understandings of Patient Safety (2018)
This report summarizes how members of the public and health care professionals think about and understand patient safety and explores the implications for strategic communications.

Telling a Story of Safety: Media and Organizational Discourse on Patient Safety (2018)
This report summarizes how advocacy groups and the news media frame the issue of patient safety in news coverage and organizational materials.

FrameWorks Institute