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Patient safety culture survey: Why collect data?

Doctor high fiving a young patient.

The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality defines patient safety culture as "the extent to which an organization's culture supports and promotes patient safety." Patient safety culture is influenced by the values, beliefs and norms of healthcare practitioners and other staff. Since these concepts tend to be abstract, organizations looking to improve their patient safety culture must focus on identifying and measuring patient safety-related behaviors. 

In this introductory blog, we'll touch on the importance of patient safety data and how it can help create a baseline. From there, you can gain a clearer idea of how to benchmark your facility to create effective patient safety culture improvement strategies. 

Why collect patient safety data? 

The best way to examine patient safety culture at the department, organization and system levels is to measure data. An organization can implement many different patient safety culture strategies. However, for them to be most effective, healthcare facilities need to know where they stand and what goals to set.  

1. Examine your care settings 

Multiple care settings can benefit from collecting patient safety culture data, including: 

  • hospitals; 

  • ambulatory surgery centers; 

  • nursing homes; 

  • medical offices; 

  • pharmacies; 

  • rehabilitation centers; 

  • urgent care centers; 

  • specialized outpatient services; and 

  • other long-term care facilities. 

The AHRQ Surveys on Patient Safety Culture™ (SOPS®) program covers all these healthcare settings. It enables organizations to assess their culture of patient safety at the unit, department, organization and system levels.

2. Benchmark your facility 

You need solid baseline data to help determine which patient safety culture improvement strategies to use.  

A baseline provides insight into staff members’ perception of patient care while helping to identify potential safety issues. It also provides a gut check, ensuring leadership supports the right initiatives to improve the organization’s culture of safety. 

"In order to create a baseline, you really need to know how your employees feel about safety, their safety, the safety of patients, the safety of things like their EHR, their value and efficiency," says Melissa Bauer, principal healthcare informatics analyst at DataGen. "Once you have that baseline, you can start to use the data that you've collected to create action plans to drive change."  

To help better understand your facility’s patient safety culture, use these five secrets to a successful Survey on Patient Safety Culture™.

3. Implement change

The AHRQ SOPS hospital survey collects dozens of indicators. To stay compliant with The Joint Commission and other accrediting organizations, medical institutions must examine SOPS data and implement a plan for improvement.  

The question is, how can you improve your organization’s performance on these indicators? One approach would be to create change teams and assign goals to units, starting at the lower level, and/or initiate action plans for smaller steps.  

"Let's say 'hospital A' scored low on a communication indicator because their approach was too hands-off. One way they could work on this could be implementing different ways to pass information at the change of shift times. Staff could hand off Post-it notes, notebooks or electronic devices. Then, they could have another person sign off that they transferred the information check sheets, those kinds of things," explains Bauer.  

The most effective changes are based on rich, accurate data. You’ll want proven tactics that broadcast patient safety culture to improve survey rates. You will also require a system that allows you to quickly identify key areas to more effectively shape a culture that prioritizes patient safety. 

With DataGen, you can go beyond your SOPS scores to drive safety, patient outcomes and staff confidence. 

Get rich culture insights: Discover DataGen 

DataGen's Culture of Safety Insights solution is a web-based survey tool that helps you gain actionable data insights. It has a dashboard for multiple care settings where you can collect and view reports. We even provide your team optional, customizable action plans to improve performance. You can use these reports to communicate data-driven solutions to leadership. 

Stop scrambling to survey every two years and contact DataGen today. Also, check out our blog for more resources on Culture of Safety Insights. 


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