Validity of selected AHRQ patient safety indicators based on VA national surgical quality improvement program data

Patrick S Romano, Hillary J. Mull, Peter E. Rivard, Shibei Zhao, William G. Henderson, Susan Loveland, Dennis Tsilimingras, Cindy L. Christiansen, Amy K. Rosen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

128 Scopus citations


Objectives. To examine the criterion validity of the Agency for Health Care Research and Quality (AHRQ) Patient Safety Indicators (PSIs) using clinical data from the Veterans Health Administration (VA) National Surgical Quality Improvement Program (NSQIP). Data Sources. Fifty five thousand seven hundred and fifty two matched hospitalizations from 2001 VA inpatient surgical discharge data and NSQIP chart-abstracted data. Study Design. We examined the sensitivities, specificities, positive predictive values (PPVs), and positive likelihood ratios of five surgical PSIs that corresponded to NSQIP adverse events. We created and tested alternative definitions of each PSI. Data Collection. FY01 inpatient discharge data were merged with 2001 NSQIP data abstracted from medical records for major noncardiac surgeries. Principal Findings. Sensitivities were 19-56 percent for original PSI definitions; and 37-63 percent using alternative PSI definitions. PPVs were 22-74 percent and did not improve with modifications. Positive likelihood ratios were 65-524 using original definitions, and 64-744 using alternative definitions. "Postoperative respiratory failure" and "postoperative wound dehiscence" exhibited significant increases in sensitivity after modifications. Conclusions. PSI sensitivities and PPVs were moderate. For three of the five PSIs, AHRQ has incorporated our alternative, higher sensitivity definitions into current PSI algorithms. Further validation should be considered before most of the PSIs evaluated herein are used to publicly compare or reward hospital performance.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)182-204
Number of pages23
JournalHealth Services Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 2009


  • Administrative data
  • Criterion validity
  • Medical errors
  • Patient safety indicators

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health Policy


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