An Overview of the Anesthesia Patient Safety Foundation (APSF)

September 11, 2019

The Anesthesia Patient Safety Foundation (APSF) was founded in 1985 as the first of patient safety organizations formed as an expansion of the Safety and Risk Management Committee from the American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA) [1]. The creation of the independent organization addressed sensitive topics of anesthesia accidents by focusing on patient safety without the bureaucratic processes that the ASA faced. [4] The APSF catalyzed the movement on patient safety that is now universal in healthcare by using a systems-based approach and critical incident analysis [1]. Since 1985, the APSF has worked to accomplish its mission: “to improve continually the safety of patients during anesthesia care by encouraging and conducting: safety research and education, patient safety programs and campaigns, and national and international exchange of information and ideas” [1].

APSF facilitated conversations on patient safety through its grant-funded research results, newsletter, conferences, and workshops [4]. Despite early improvements in patient safety, medical liability concerns continued which led to the American Society of Anesthesiologists’ Closed Claims Study through the study of anesthesia mishaps [2]. This eventually led to the first performance standard publication from the ASA [2]. Trends of improvement are due to technology advances such as electronic monitoring, application of human factors, use of simulation, and establishment of reporting systems [2]. The use of simulation revolutionized the medical community in 1995 at a national conference in anesthesia education. Workshops using simulation training set the precedent of formal standards of care and research tools in anesthesia education [4]. Improvements can be attributed to studies of patient safety in anesthesia and the actions taken to educate professionals on safety issues.

In addition to their research, the Anesthesia Patient Safety Foundation successfully disseminated communications through a wide range of anesthesia professionals including: “nurse anesthetists, nurses, bioengineers, epidemiologists, equipment and pharmaceutical manufacturers, government regulators, risk managers, insurance industry executives, and also surgeons” [4]. Playing a crucial role as a trusted resource, the APSF efforts have led to a dramatic decrease in morbidity and anesthesia-related incidents. The newsletter has been a source of previously unknown topics on patient safety and cleared information in cases such as: “CO2 absorbents, latex allergy danger, checklists” [4]. In close partnership with the ASA, the APSF presents new patient safety information at the annual conference yearly.

The Anesthesia Patient Safety Foundation has made pioneering strides to improve anesthesia patient safety through its research and advocacy since 1985. Recent emphasis has been to incorporate electronic information management systems, terminology, and alarms on physiologic monitors into safety strategies. [1] By applying a systems-based approach of changes with research on human factors, the field of anesthesiology has made a lasting change in pursuit of its goal of patient safety.

Works Cited

  1. “About APSF.” Anesthesia Patient Safety Foundation,
  2. Botney, Richard. “Improving patient safety in anesthesia: a success story?.” International Journal of Radiation Oncology* Biology* Physics 71.1 (2008): S182-S186.
  3. Cooper, Jeffrey B., Ronald S. Newbower, and Richard J. Kitz. “An analysis of major errors and equipment failures in anesthesia management: considerations for prevention and detection.” Anesthesiology 60.1 (1984): 34-42.
  4. Eichhorn, John H. “The Anesthesia Patient Safety Foundation at 25: a pioneering success in safety, 25th anniversary provokes reflection, anticipation.” Anesthesia & Analgesia114.4 (2012): 791-800.