The New and Improved AHRQ WebM&M and Patient Safety Network

By  |  March 29, 2011 | 

This is a quick note to let you know that the two patient safety websites that I’m privileged to edit for the U.S. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality – AHRQ WebM&M and AHRQ Patient Safety Network – were relaunched this week after extensive makeovers. The sites already receive more than 2 million visits each year, and I believe the changes make them far more attractive and useful.

AHRQ WebM&M, our on-line morbidity and mortality conference, was the brainchild of AHRQ founding director John Eisenberg, one of my early role models and a personal hero.John Eisenberg In the late 1990s – when Google was not yet a verb and the IOM was setting out to craft a report on medical errors – John’s vision was to leverage the emerging power of the Web to publish user-submitted cases of medical errors, with accompanying expert commentaries (WebM&M’s backstory is more fully described in this article). Since we launched the site in early 2003 (tragically, John died of a brain tumor, at age 55, a few months before we launched), we have published 221 such cases, and they are used to educate people around the world about key principles in safety. CME/nursing credit is available, as is trainee certification. One of the cases each month is accompanied by a downloadable PowerPoint slide set.

In April 2005, we added interviews and accompanying commentaries to WebM&M. Since then, I’ve had the chance to interview a who’s who in patient safety: Don Berwick, Mark Chassin, Carolyn Clancy, Janet Corrigan, Atul Gawande, Brent James, Lucian Leape, Peter Pronovost, and many more. A downloadable podcast of an excerpt of the interview comes with each issue.

The newly-launched changes to WebM&M include a much fresher look (it’s extraordinary how dated a 2005 web interface looks only 6 years later), an easier way to search and browse for cases or commentaries on various topics, and automatic links to related cases and to all of the content on AHRQ PSNet.

The changes to AHRQ Patient Safety Network are even more fundamental. We launched AHRQ PSNet in 2005 as a national patient safety portal; the site’s rationale and background is described in this article. At first, PSNet consisted of a weekly update of carefully annotated new articles and books (both professional and lay-oriented), websites, conferences and other resources. Each new resource then became part of “The Collection,” the world’s most robust patient safety library. We included a feature called “My PSNet” which allowed users to set their own criteria and receive a weekly email when relevant content was posted. In 2008, we launched “Patient Safety Primers”: monograph-like descriptions of key terms and concepts in the field (“never events”, “human factors”), accompanied by relevant and constantly updated literature and cases from WebM&M. We added other features over the years, including designating certain resources as “Classics,” a “most popular” listing, and more.

The new and improved AHRQ PSNet, also relaunched this week, includes a far better method for searching or browsing through our taxonomy. For example, at a glance a user can see how many books or journal articles are available regarding nurse-staffing ratios, or wrong-site surgery, or nearly any topic in safety. The new PSNet also has tighter links between individual resources and all sorts of related content, including other PSNet resources, Primers, and WebM&M cases/commentaries. The changes are extensive enough that I’ve described them in a brief video on the home page.

These websites have been a labor of love and a shining example of great teamwork. My UCSF-based editorial teams for WebM&M and PSNet are first-rate, and we’ve been aided by a wonderful editorial board and advisory panel. The team at Charlottesville-based Silverchair, which produces the websites, is uber-competent and a joy to work with. Finally, we have been blessed by unwavering support from AHRQ – not just with dollars but also with creative input and a constant focus on serving our users, the field of patient safety, and ultimately our patients. These sites are an example of our government doing a good thing extremely well.

If you haven’t seen AHRQ WebM&M and PSNet, please do check them out, particularly now that they’ve undergone their facelifts. If you subscribe to these sites (and I hope you will), you’ll receive nothing more annoying than a weekly notice when new AHRQ PSNet content is posted (the 20 top resources that week in patient safety, lovingly annotated), and a monthly notice when we post a new issue of WebM&M.

Thanks to my fantastic team and our many contributors, and particularly to our users. As I know from writing this blog, creating content for the Web must be a two-way street: it’s nice to put good stuff out there, but without active and engaged readers, it’s one-handed clapping.

One Comment

  1. doclake March 29, 2011 at 12:46 pm - Reply

    the RSS feed link on the PSNet page is broken.

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About the Author: Bob Wachter

Robert M. Wachter, MD is Professor and Interim Chairman of the Department of Medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, where he holds the Lynne and Marc Benioff Endowed Chair in Hospital Medicine. He is also Chief of the Division of Hospital Medicine. He has published 250 articles and 6 books in the fields of quality, safety, and health policy. He coined the term hospitalist” in a 1996 New England Journal of Medicine article and is past-president of the Society of Hospital Medicine. He is generally considered the academic leader of the hospitalist movement, the fastest growing specialty in the history of modern medicine. He is also a national leader in the fields of patient safety and healthcare quality. He is editor of AHRQ WebM&M, a case-based patient safety journal on the Web, and AHRQ Patient Safety Network, the leading federal patient safety portal. Together, the sites receive nearly one million unique visits each year. He received one of the 2004 John M. Eisenberg Awards, the nation’s top honor in patient safety and quality. He has been selected as one of the 50 most influential physician-executives in the U.S. by Modern Healthcare magazine for the past eight years, the only academic physician to achieve this distinction; in 2015 he was #1 on the list. He is a former chair of the American Board of Internal Medicine, and has served on the healthcare advisory boards of several companies, including Google. His 2015 book, The Digital Doctor: Hope, Hype, and Harm at the Dawn of Medicine’s Computer Age, was a New York Times science bestseller.


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