Hospitals use free online resource to boost quality

Resource is practice for Leapfrog survey

Is your organization on the fence about participating with the Washington, DC-based Leapfrog Group's Hospital Quality and Safety Survey? If so, why not practice first?

A free online Safe Practices Survey is offered by the Texas Medical Institute of Technology (TMIT) Hospital Research Test Bed to help organizations assess their performance in implementing the National Quality Forum (NQF) Safe Practices. (To access this tool, go to

More than 1,600 hospitals have accessed and worked on draft versions of the safe practices survey on this web site.

"Organizations can practice taking the survey online," says Carol L. Sale, RN, MSN, director of patient safety and performance improvement at TMIT.

"Our intent is not for this to be a substitute for public reporting," says Sale. "But if organizations are apprehensive, they can take the survey as many times as they like, until they feel comfortable they have their answers nailed down the way they want to ultimately submit them to the Leapfrog Group."

To date, more than 1,200 hospitals have submitted data to the Leapfrog Hospital Quality and Safety Survey. The results are free and open to the public and are accessible at

The TMIT site features an online simulator for the Leapfrog survey, which can be downloaded and completed on paper or done online. "The layout is a little bit different from Leapfrog, but the content is identical," says Sale. "TMIT solely funded and wrote the survey, then gave the Leapfrog Group permission to publish it on their web site as a means of evaluating hospital performance in their roll-out regions."

You can complete a draft of the survey on the web site, then print out a copy, access the Leapfrog web site, and enter your answers there. For confidentiality and security reasons, no information can be transmitted electronically between the sites, she explains.

The site also features a briefing center with multiple video interviews of experts on health care safety and performance improvement which can be viewed as a streaming video online. In addition, a media center on the site offers multimedia packages with video clips on safety and performance improvement in health care and other industries that can be applied to health care. "These can be downloaded into your own PowerPoint presentations, all free of charge," says Sale.

The web site will be updated once the 2006 safe practices are approved by the NQF. In addition, the site's media center will contain videos on the finalized safe practices and other resources that hospitals will need to begin implementing the new practices. There will be links to the evidentiary literature that supports each practice, all at no cost to hospitals.

"We will also be developing the new safe practices survey for 2007, based on the revised 2006 safe practices" reports Sale. "Hospitals will more than likely get a chance to review some of the frequently asked questions that will be tied to the 2007 survey."

Quality professionals are invited to contact TMIT by phone or e-mail with any questions that aren't covered on the web site's FAQs section, says Sale.

"Since we wrote the survey, we are in a strong position to help with questions," she adds. "When we wrote the survey, we knew we were pushing hospital performance — we weren't writing it for the current status quo in health care patient safety. So we wanted to put in place as many resources and support systems as possible to help hospitals as they are working on this."

At St. Mary's Hospital in Streator, IL, quality professionals were unsure whether they wanted to participate in the Leapfrog Survey.

"We did this to get an idea of what the Leapfrog survey would be like," says Barbara Lentman, coordinator of performance improvement. "We wanted to get some insight into the format and what to expect should we move forward. And this has given us a really good idea of how it would go."

Pinpointing areas of improvement

Lentman and her supervisor completed the survey online in approximately six hours. "Because we're a small facility, we each wear multiple hats, so we didn't have to rely on input from a dozen different people. The two of us have a birdseye view of multiple activities that take place throughout the organization," she says.

The survey's results have added weight to areas of improvement that were previously identified, such as informed consent and deep venous thrombosis prophylaxis, she says. "It basically confirmed what we've been discussing with hospital staff and medical staff," she says. "This is yet another tool to help us in our efforts moving forward."

By pinpointing specific areas that need improvement, initiatives can be put into place to address these before the organization makes a decision whether to move forward with the Leapfrog survey.

"These are areas that we had previously recognized as issues we could improve on, and taking the survey reinforced the notion that we certainly were on the right track," says Lentman. "It also gave us additional backing to go to the medical staff, and say 'Here is the evidence-based rationale for us to continue our efforts.'"

[For more information, contact:

Barbara Lentman, Performance Improvement, St. Mary's Hospital, 111 Spring Street, Streator, IL 61364. Telephone: (815) 673-2311, ext. 3599. Fax: (815) 673-4621. E-mail:

Carol L. Sale, RN, MSN, Director of Patient Safety and Performance Improvement, Texas Medical Institute of Technology. Telephone: (757) 565-5411. E-mail: ]