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New AHRQ Survey Helps Hospitals Measure and Improve Patient Safety Culture

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Press Release Date: November 10, 2004

HHS' Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality today announced a new tool to help hospitals and health systems evaluate employee attitudes about patient safety in their facilities or within specific units. The Hospital Survey on Patient Safety Culture, being released in partnership with Premier, Inc., the Department of Defense, and the American Hospital Association, addresses a critical aspect of patient safety improvement: measuring organizational conditions that can lead to adverse events and patient harm.

"Improving patient safety is not just a function of having the best research findings available," said AHRQ Director Carolyn M. Clancy, M.D. "There has to be an environment or culture that encourages health professionals to share information about patient safety problems and actions that can be taken to make care safer, and that also supports making any changes needed in how care is delivered."

Assessments of patient safety culture typically include an evaluation of a variety of organizational factors that have an impact on patient safety, including: awareness about safety issues, evaluating specific patient safety interventions, tracking changes in patient safety over time, setting internal and external benchmarks, and fulfilling regulatory requirements or other directives.

"Premier considers health care organizations' ongoing evaluation of the safety culture in their facilities as a basic yet crucial step in improving safety and overall quality. This tool will be valuable in targeting interventions and then measuring their success over time," said Gina Pugliese, R.N., M.S., vice president of Premier's Safety Institute.

The Hospital Survey on Patient Safety Culture includes the survey guide, the survey, as well as a feedback report template in which hospitals can enter their data to produce customized feedback reports for hospital management and staff. These items provide hospitals with the basic knowledge and tools needed to conduct a safety culture assessment and suggestions about how to use the data.

"The DoD Patient Safety Program is dedicated to improving patient safety in all military health care settings through evaluating processes and systems of health care delivery in military treatment facilities," explained David Tornberg, M.D., M.P.H., Chief Medical Officer for DoD's Military Health System, TRICARE. "This survey will help the DoD's Military Health System realize our mission of improving patient safety by enabling open promotion and discussion regarding the identification of safety issues specific to each unique environment in our system."

The survey was pilot tested with over 1,400 hospital employees from 21 hospitals in the United States to ensure that the items were easily understood and relevant to patient safety in a hospital.

"Trust, understanding, and openness are the key ingredients to creating a culture of safety," said Dick Davidson, AHA president. "This tool will help hospitals determine where they are on the pathway to achieving a culture of safety—an important step in improving care for patients."

To ensure widespread awareness and use of the survey, AHRQ and its partners will host a toll-free audio conference in January 2005 to help health professionals adopt and use the survey. Details on the audio conference will be made available on the AHRQ Web site and AHRQ's electronic newsletter in early January.

The survey can be found online at Printed copies may be ordered by calling 1-800-358-9295 or by sending an E-mail to

Editor's Note:

Premier, Inc., is a leading health care alliance collectively owned by more than 200 independent hospitals and health care systems in the United States. Together, they operate or are affiliated with nearly 1,500 hospitals and other health care sites. The goal of Premier's Safety Institute is to produce and assemble timely information and technical resources that help busy health care professionals effectively tackle the challenge of preventing medical errors and fostering a safe and healthy health care environment for everyone—from patients and workers to the public.

Established by the 2001 National Defense Authorization Act, the Department of Defense (DoD) Patient Safety Program's mission is to develop, promote, and support a comprehensive Patient Safety Program using a systems approach across the Army, Navy, and Air Force healthcare facilities. This includes fostering a culture of trust and disclosure in and among military hospitals. The Patient Safety Center (PSC) collects, analyzes, trends and monitors data related to patient care events in military treatment facilities. The Center for Education and Research in Patient Safety focuses on development and education to recommend system and process change.

The AHA is the national organization that represents and serves all types of hospitals, health care networks, and their patients and communities. Close to 5,000 hospitals, health care systems, networks, other providers of care and 37,000 individual members come together to form the AHA. Founded in 1898, the AHA provides education for health care leaders and is a source of information on health care issues and trends.

For more information, please contact AHRQ Public Affairs: (301) 427-1241 or (301) 427-1857.


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