University of Georgia Health Center Relies on AHRQ Survey to Assess Culture of Safety and Quality
The University of Georgia Health Center (UHC) used AHRQ’s Medical Office Survey on Patient Safety Culture™ (SOPS®) to conduct a required assessment to evaluate the safety culture and quality of its facility. The university’s Student Health Center, located in Athens, Georgia, chose the AHRQ tool because it was designed specifically for staff of outpatient medical offices to share their opinions about the culture of patient safety and healthcare quality in their workplace.
More than 130 UHC employees participated in the 2021 Medical Office SOPS survey, 58 percent of whom had been employed at UHC for more than 5 years. They answered a variety of survey questions, including access to care, communications, office processes, organizational learning, staff training, patient care tracking and followup, information exchange, teamwork, and work pressure and pace. All survey participants were asked to provide an overall patient safety rating for their area and to rate it in five specific healthcare quality areas: patient-centered, effective, timely, efficient, and equitable.
Missy Jackson, M.S., W.H.N.P.-B.C., Director of Nursing, explained that because of the responses to the survey, the staff then reviewed the entire center’s workflow efficiency to determine how to serve their patients more effectively.
For instance, “the Medical and Nursing Services Departments created a nursing triage clinic open to anyone without an appointment, where a nurse triages the patient, conducts a comprehensive nursing assessment, provides the patient with education, and schedules the patient for an appropriate time,” Jackson said. In addition, the Counseling and Psychiatric Services Department now offers walk-in services and single therapy sessions.
To address concerns from 67 percent of the respondents who stated that it was difficult to voice concerns, “the UHC leadership team implemented annual staff interviews, which allow in-depth discussions about what is important to employees individually,” said Amelia Ross, UHC Manager of Quality and Health Equity.
As a result, the center now uses an employee-centered approach, rather than focusing only on the work performed. This approach allows UHC to gain understanding about what motivates the staff. Additionally, two communication initiatives were created to increase avenues of communication between administrators and staff.
“The staff now receives updates through a weekly newsletter and participates in huddles with clinic managers and lead physicians,” Jackson explained.
Collaborating with campus partners also is important. “UHC incorporated a Patient Navigator position to alleviate patients’ health-related social concerns. This allows clinical staff to have additional resources available to address our patients’ diverse needs,” Ross said.
To maintain a focus on patient safety and employee feedback, UHC plans to repeat the survey in 2024 and every 3 years after that.