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New AHRQ survey helps hospitals measure and improve patient safety culture

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

As noted by AHRQ Director Carolyn M. Clancy, M.D., improving patient safety is not just a function of having the best research findings available. There also 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. This culture also must support the organization in making any changes that are 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.

The Hospital Survey on Patient Safety Culture includes the survey guide, the survey, and 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, as well as suggestions about how to use the resulting data.

The survey was pilot tested with over 1,400 hospital employees from 21 hospitals in the United States via in-person and telephone interviews to ensure that the items were easily understood and relevant to patient safety in a hospital. To ensure widespread awareness and use of the survey, AHRQ and its partners will host a toll-free audio conference call to help health professionals adopt and implement this survey. This call-in event will take place in January 2005, and will include a number of principals responsible for the development of the survey who will be able to answer questions about the survey and its implementation.

Select to access more information on the survey. Printed copies (AHRQ Publication No. 04-0041) are available from the AHRQ Publications Clearinghouse.

Editor's Note: More information about the audio conference will be provided in AHRQ's Electronic Newsletter and on the AHRQ Web site in early January.

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