When a patient goes to a hospital for treatment, they deserve a safe environment. Facilities must continually evaluate their safety practices to ensure they are doing everything they can to safeguard patients. In order to determine if their culture puts them at risk for patient safety issues, many hospitals are adopting the practice of surveying for safety.

This practice is already commonly done in aviation, an industry with inherent risk but a strong track record of safety. In fact, one of the most widely used and robust surveys used by hospitals is the Safety Attitudes Questionnaire (SAQ) which was created from the Flight Management Attitudes Questionnaire. Some of its questions (i.e., “Fatigue impairs my work in critical situations” and “When my workload becomes excessive, my performance is impaired”) were taken directly from the aviation survey.

The survey provides a facility with insight into caregivers’ opinions on the safety protocols within the facility and how comfortable they feel reporting safety issues. Additionally, the SAQ asks employees about the levels of cooperation within their team and across the organization as it relates to keeping patients safe.

Aside from the SAQ, another patient safety survey is the Hospital Survey on Patient Safety Culture, which is offered to hospitals for free by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ). The AHRQ makes the results of the surveys available on a comparative database. According to AHRQ, the database was developed to allow hospitals to compare their survey results against those of other hospitals, to help hospitals determine their strengths and weaknesses in regards to patient safety, and to provide information that shows changes to patient safety culture over time.

For hospitals and other healthcare facilities looking to improve patient safety, being able to compare themselves to hospitals with an established safety culture is key to their long-term success. As we discuss in our white paper, 10 Things Healthcare Leaders Must Do to Create a Culture of Safety, healthcare executives “need to determine what a safety culture will look like for their facility and then measure progress towards it… Facilities need to use benchmarking to stay on course and not waste time on failing or failed safety initiatives.”

We are firm believers in benchmarking and best practices. We created the 5 Rings Award program as more than just a way to recognize hospitals with a strong culture of safety and vigilance. We were also looking for hospitals that would be examples for facilities who want to replicate their success. IntelliCentrics CEO Mike Sheehan explains, “We hope that these hospital winners will serve as role models for other hospitals as they take steps to improve safety and compliance.”

Conducting surveys to determine your existing safety culture and following the best practices established by our 5 Rings winners and other successful hospitals can help you determine the steps you need to take to your hospital or clinic safer. At the same time, safety databases like the one developed by AHRQ that track patient safety trends can be a key learning tool for the entire industry.

Survey. Benchmark. Succeed. Save lives.


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