patient safety quality healthcare

November / December 2012

The American Society of Medication Safety Officers
A Conversation with Christian Hartman, Founder and President

www.asmso.orgPSQH Editor Susan Carr talked with Chris Hartman in June 2012 about the American Society of Medication Safety Officers (ASMSO), an organization he started in 2006. From a small group doing similar work in patient safety and sharing a desire to accelerate change, the ASMSO ( has developed into an organization of more than 800 members with a governance structure designed for sustainability, a board elected by the membership, and an ambitious and expanding program. In addition to continuing to serve the ASMSO as founding president and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts as chair of the Special Commission (see p. 9), Hartman is currently director of clinical quality and patient safety at Wolters Kluwer Health and a partner at consulting firm Lucian Metrics.

Carr: The ASMSO is a relatively young organization. How is it organized and what kinds of projects are you working on?

Hartman: Beyond its six-member board, the ASMSO has four working committees, which can take credit for most what we have been able to achieve in a short time. Those committees include professional affairs, continuing education, finance, and membership.

The professional affairs committee is charged with supporting and advancing the profession of Medication Safety Officer (MSO). One of the committee’s early accomplishments is a program to recognize leaders with fellowship status (FSMSO). Two other major programs—board certification and certificate classes—are designed to advance the profession. Certification will involve taking an examination. Pass the exam, and you become a “board-certified medication safety specialist.” The ASMSO has partnered with an educational institution for development of the exam, which we expect will be available in 2013.

Professional affairs is also developing a certificate program that will offer ASMSO members online learning modules designed for those who are new to the field of medication safety and don’t have formalized training in concepts such as root cause analysis, human factors, Lean, etc. Learning modules will include quizzes for self-evaluation. The purpose is competence, not board certification. This, too, is still in development.

Although membership in the ASMSO is free, I feel it is very important that we build value for our members, which is the work of the membership committee. In addition to a website (, we offer a moderated listserve discussion and a quarterly newsletter, which highlights the work of an ASMSO member and includes features, news stories written by members, and a board report.

Carr: What specialties are represented among the members of the ASMSO? Are most Medication Safety Officers pharmacists?

Hartman: Most are pharmacists, but from the very beginning, we’ve known that to be successful, we need to include everyone who is doing this work. It doesn’t matter what letters appear after your name. We currently have a nurse board member, and I think it’s very important that we continue in this way. Pharmacists certainly have deep and valuable expertise in medication, but safe mediation use goes way beyond the skills and knowledge of any one specialty.
More than 90% of our members are pharmacists. Mostly, they acquire safety skills on the job. We do annual needs assessment and demographic surveys, which demonstrate huge gaps in knowledge. I’m essentially self-trained in safety. I remember when I took my first job as a medication safety officer in 2003, I was the first and only MSO for an 800-bed hospital. I looked around and realized there was no one I could turn to for advise, no predecessor to call for help. That’s happening everywhere. The ASMSO wants to help fill that gap with programs such as the certificate program, continuing education, and board certification.

Carr: What drew you to medication safety work?

Hartman: I had worked as a research and hospital pharmacist and was interested in safety, but I confess that when I landed in the MSO position, I realized I had so much to learn. So, I went through Patient Safety Officer training at the Institute for Healthcare Improvement as well as training offered by the Institute for Safe Medication Practice. I fell in love with safety work. After I’d been an MSO for a couple of years, I took a step back, looked at how things were working in my department, and felt a sense of accomplishment. I could see the impact I was making. As a pharmacist, I impacted one patient at a time. As an MSO, I was able to improve safety more quickly and for hundreds or even thousands of patients at a time. It’s extremely satisfying work.



ABQAURP American Society for Quality American Society for Quality Healthcare Division Consumers Advancing Patient Safety
EMPSF Institute for Safe Medical Practices
Medically Induced Trauma Support Services (MITSS) Medication Safety Officers Society NPSF Partnership for Patient Safety Society to Improve Diagnosis in Medicine