This is a discipline that emphasizes safety in health care through the prevention, reduction, reporting, and analysis of medical error that often leads to adverse effects. The frequency and magnitude of avoidable adverse events experienced by patients was not well known until the 1990s, when multiple countries reported staggering numbers of patients harmed and killed by medical errors.

Recognizing that healthcare errors impact 1 in every 10 patients around the world, the World Health Organization calls patient safety an endemic concern.  Indeed, patient safety has emerged as a distinct healthcare discipline supported by an immature yet developing scientific framework. There is a significant transdisciplinary body of theoretical and research literature that informs the science of patient safety.

At the same time, efforts are being made to anchor patient safety more firmly in medical education. The resulting patient safety knowledge continually informs improvement efforts such as: applying lessons learned from business and industry, adopting innovative technologies, educating providers and consumers, enhancing error reporting systems, and developing new economic incentives.