AHRQ offers a tool for measuring patient safety

Patient safety is on everyone’s minds these days, but how do you know how well your organization already is doing on this topic? One way is a tool offered by the Agency for Health-care Research and Quality (AHRQ), an arm of the Department of Health and Human Services in Washington, DC.

The AHRQ is offering 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 Associa-tion, addresses a critical aspect of patient safety improvement: measuring organizational conditions that can lead to adverse events and patient harm, says AHRQ director Carolyn M. Clancy, MD.

"Improving patient safety is not just a function of having the best research findings available," Clancy says. "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."

Patient safety culture assessments

Gina Pugliese, RN, MS, vice president of Premier’s Safety Institute, says 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," Pugliese says. "This tool will be valuable in targeting interventions and then measuring their success over time."

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 survey was pilot tested with more than 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.

The survey can be found on-line at www.ahrq.gov/qual/hospculture/. Printed copies may be ordered by calling (800) 358-9295 or by sending an e-mail to ahrqpubs@ahrq.gov.