Back to Top Skip to main content

HRO Corner: MHS Patient Safety Culture Survey

The Patient Safety Culture Survey will be launched in April 2019, according to its triennial schedule. The survey is sponsored by the Defense Health Agency in collaboration with the Services and transitional Intermediate Management Organization.  Last completed in 2016, this ten minute survey assesses the current state of perceptions regarding patient safety amongst military treatment facility (MTF) healthcare professionals. Once the results are published, MTFs will use the findings to implement patient safety improvements and plans in their location. 

To highlight its upcoming iteration, the DoD Patient Safety Team interviewed Dr. Sandra Almeida, a medical doctor who currently supports the survey. Dr. Almeida’s responses below showcase the current practical and projected implications of the survey’s implementation for those healthcare professionals who are interested in taking it.

Q: How can a MTF get involved in taking the survey? Is there an application or registration process?

A: There is no application or registration process for MTFs. In April 2019, all staff members working at MHS (DoD) facilities worldwide -- including hospitals, outpatient clinics and dental clinics -- will have an opportunity to participate. Staff members will receive an email notification with a link to the survey web page.

Q: What advice would you have for a healthcare professional who is taking the survey for the first time?

A: I’d have many suggestions. First - Don’t miss this opportunity to have your voice heard, all the way up the chain to MHS leadership! It only takes about 10 minutes to complete the Survey, and your honest and open responses can help make a difference for the safety of your patients and for the well-being of your co-workers. All responses are valued, respected, and anonymous. Encourage your co-workers to complete the survey too, because the more who do, the more powerful the data and the louder your voices will be!

Q: As a medical practitioner yourself, working in patient safety, how important is it for this survey to continue?

A: It’s essential. Achieving high reliability and zero preventable patient harm is virtually impossible without a safety culture. Culture heavily determines if staff members will feel comfortable doing the oftentimes difficult things necessary to protect patients, such as reporting an error or speaking up to someone of higher authority about a safety concern. Measurement, including feedback of results, is critical to almost any healthcare improvement effort because it identifies actionable gaps, provides a method to track progress, adds credibility to improvement recommendations, and holds people accountable. The Culture Survey is a validated, user-friendly measurement tool that has been widely used for over a decade by healthcare systems across the nation to improve safety culture. Positive results have been correlated with fewer adverse patient events and higher patient satisfaction (Mardon et al. J Patient Saf. 2010;  Sorra et al. J Patient Saf. 2012)

Q: How could the survey lead to improvements in safety culture? 

A: The Culture Survey will identify strengths and opportunities for improvements at multiple levels of the MHS (Direct CareDirect care refers to military hospitals and clinics, also known as “military treatment facilities” and “MTFs.”Direct Care System) - from MHS-wide down to the unit level within a particular MTF. The Survey assesses culture along several actionable dimensions such as leadership support, teamwork, trust, and staff well-being. As long as there are at least 20 responses (to maintain staff member anonymity), MTFs can even drill down their results by staff position.  The DoD PSP has developed a wealth of evidence-based resources available to MTF staff members to help them improve their safety culture. Since DoD PSP administers the Survey about every 3 years, MTFs can track their improvement progress over time.

Q: How are MTFs able to access the results for the survey? 

A: The DoD PSP makes this easy for the MTFs. The difficult work of data analysis is completed by an expert contracted analytics team and the results are then made available to each MTF in an easy-to-use interactive reporting tool. The tool allows MTFs to quickly identify their opportunities for safety culture improvement down to the unit and staff position levels and to compare their results to MHS-wide results, a national benchmark, and to their own previous Survey year results.

Q: What guidance would you give for those MTFs using the survey results to improve patient safety at their facility?

A: The Survey is a very powerful improvement tool that the DoD PSP makes available to all MTFs with minimal work burden to the MTFs. MTFs should not miss out on the opportunity to maximally leverage the potential of this Survey. One of the most important things an MTF can do is encourage all their staff members to complete the Survey. The more staff members who complete it, the more meaningful the data become and the greater the MTF’s ability to learn about culture down to the unit levels. Culture is a very local phenomenon, and it can vary widely across units within an MTF. It’s important to identify units with strong cultures and spread their successful practices to the units that are struggling more. In order to do that, at least 20 staff members from each unit must respond, for anonymity purposes. Once MTFs have their Survey results, I’d highly recommend they take advantage of all the resources the DoD PSP makes available to help MTFs leverage their results to improve – such as the DoD PSP’s MHS PS Culture Survey Reference Guide and any learning webinars.

The DoD Patient Safety Team thanks Dr. Almeida for providing this information to help both current and future potential MHS Culture Survey participants. If interested, there is additional information on the website. For any comments or questions with the information above, please email the DoD Patient Safety Team inbox or contact your local Patient Safety manager.

DHA Address: 7700 Arlington Boulevard | Suite 5101 | Falls Church, VA | 22042-5101

Some documents are presented in Portable Document Format (PDF). A PDF reader is required for viewing: Download a PDF Reader or learn more about PDFs.