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Patient Safety Initiatives: 5 Data Factors to Know

female nurse learning about patient safety initiatives

The Surveys on Patient Safety Culture™ (SOPS®) take your hospital’s pulse. The results help answer questions like: 

  • Are staff focused on patient safety? 
  • What are our safety results and where can we improve? 
  • How do we take our scores and use them to transform patient outcomes? 
  • How do we build staff confidence? 
  • How do we stress the importance of patient safety? 

When used strategically, the required SOPS® survey data can reveal important insights — that go beyond maintaining The Joint Commission accreditation. The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality offers data collection as a part of the SOPS® survey. Though you’re spending the resources and time to complete this requirement, this effort alone doesn’t improve patient safety. You need to know which safety initiatives to target, followed by the outcomes and impact. A deep dive into the data can deliver that. 

In this blog, we'll examine five important factors that impact patient safety data and initiatives, including survey design, anonymity, pragmatism and prioritization, benchmarks and collaboration. Then, we’ll dig into how these data are used to improve hospital culture and care. 

5 Important patient safety data factors 

AHRQ defines patient safety culture as “the values, beliefs and norms that are shared by healthcare practitioners and other staff throughout the organization that influence their actions and behaviors."   

How does data quality affect patient safety? 

To create meaningful change, a hospital must build a culture of patient safety through targeted actions and by supporting and rewarding beneficial behaviors. 

Robust patient safety culture survey data can help. Here are five factors that can optimize the SOPS' usefulness in helping hospitals improve their culture and patient care. 

1. Survey design  

The best survey in the world can’t improve patient safety if it doesn't reach the right people. You want to target the healthcare professionals in your system effectively. This will help you improve data quality and get the best patient data to make informed decisions. 

To better distribute your survey: 

  • Work with your quality management and human resource departments to identify your survey population.  
  • Communicate survey needs, progress and outcomes throughout the process. Use these five tactics that broadcast patient safety culture to improve survey results
  • Encourage participation by engaging with staff in creative ways. You can provide response incentives like a gift card raffle entry. You can also perform shorter pulse surveys for ongoing monitoring and quality improvement.  

2. Anonymity   

To avoid poor data quality, healthcare organizations should prioritize anonymity in survey responses. You want a majority of your staff to complete your survey so you can get the best understanding of your patient care.  

If staff feel like the answers are traced, it may deter them from answering honestly or completing the survey. They may be reluctant to report patient safety and quality concerns, especially if they think it might lead to repercussions. This can cause tension within the organization, resulting in the opposite culture that you want to achieve. It also makes it harder to gauge patient experiences and find ways to improve patient outcomes.  

By reducing the risk, more staff will be encouraged to complete surveys. You'll also foster a culture where individuals feel comfortable reporting safety concerns, allowing your organization to implement targeted efforts and training.  

3. Pragmatism and prioritization 

Manageable, measurable goals are the best way to improve patient safety and quality of care. It's better to focus on smaller initiatives brought up in your patient survey data, such as reducing medication errors by 80%. If you're new to practice transformation, finding and focusing on "low-hanging fruit” is the best way to start. Quick wins improve patient safety and increase survey response rates when staff see positive results.  

Examples of smaller goals to pursue include:  

  • implementing different handoff procedures between clinicians;  
  • creating a reporting system where clinicians and team members feel comfortable reporting safety issues; and 
  • providing learning opportunities based on reported incidents or general interest.  

4. Benchmarks  

There are many ways you can think about patient safety benchmarks. Questions to ask include: 

  • How do we compare to our competitors? 
  • Which outcomes are lower than expected? 
  • Why can’t we move the needle?  

These patient safety questions require benchmarks, pressure-tested by data collection and analysis. Benchmark examples include comparisons of a single hospital unit versus the entire facility or system, state hospital association data and national standards.  

Once you understand how you're performing, it will help you identify opportunities and apply various Plan-Do-Study-Act (PDSA) processes to make patient safety improvements, i.e. look at how you’re doing year after year and compared to larger populations. It’s important to note that the AHRQ has a PDSA worksheet, but they are many different ways you can apply PDSA to your organization outside of AHRQ’s template. 

5. Collaboration  

Data drives collaboration. It helps you identify which areas need safety interventions. It also identifies where performance is lagging and how to drive better outcomes.  

Hospitals can pair low-performing teams with high-performing ones for more efficient quality improvement. Together, teams can build action plans, monitor and report quality and make their facilities a safer place for patients to access and receive care.  

Start creating a culture of safety  

You can’t investigate safety culture thoroughly without data, which often comes from disparate sources. It must be collected and analyzed to identify performance gaps and opportunities.  

DataGen's Culture of Safety Insights 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 optional, customizable action plans to improve performance. You can use these reports to communicate data-driven solutions to leadership.   


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