Background: In work for the World Alliance for Patient Safety on research methods and measures and on defining key concepts for an International Patient Safety Classification (ICPS), it became apparent that there was a need to try to understand how the meaning of patient safety and underlying concepts relate to the existing safety and quality frameworks commonly used in healthcare. Objectives: To unfold the concept of patient safety and how it relates to safety and quality frameworks commonly used in healthcare and to trace the evolution of the ICPS framework as a basis of the electronic capture of the component elements of patient safety. Conclusion: The ICPS conceptual framework for patient safety has its origins in existing frameworks and an international consultation process. Although its 10 classes and their semantic relationships may be used as a reference model for different disciplines, it must remain dynamic in the ever-changing world of healthcare. By expanding the ICPS by examining data from all available sources, and ensuring rigorous compliance with the latest principles of informatics, a deeper interdisciplinary approach will progressively be developed to address the complex, refractory problem of reducing healthcare-associated harm.