Surveys on Patient Safety Culture™

As part of its goal to support a culture of patient safety and quality improvement in the Nation's health care system, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) sponsored the development of patient safety culture assessment tools for hospitals, nursing homes, ambulatory outpatient medical offices, community pharmacies, and ambulatory surgery centers.

The AHRQ Surveys on Patient Safety Culture (SOPS™) program enables health care organizations to assess how their staff perceive various aspects of patient safety culture in the following settings:

Health care organizations can use these survey assessment tools to:

  • Raise staff awareness about patient safety.
  • Diagnose and assess the current status of patient safety culture.
  • Identify strengths and areas for patient safety culture improvement.
  • Examine trends in patient safety culture change over time.
  • Evaluate the cultural impact of patient safety initiatives and interventions.
  • Conduct internal and external comparisons.

The Surveys on Patient Safety Culture are publicly available, which means that anyone can download and use these surveys to assess patient safety culture in a health care setting. Note that international users should contact SafetyCultureSurveys@westat.com for permission to use the survey outside the U.S.

Defining Patient Safety Culture

Patient safety culture is the extent to which an organization’s culture supports and promotes patient safety. Patient safety culture refers to the beliefs, values, and norms that are shared by health care practitioners and other staff throughout the organization that influence their actions and behaviors. Patient safety culture can be measured by determining what is rewarded, supported, expected, and accepted in an organization as it relates to patient safety.

The SOPS Program

The Surveys on Patient Safety Culture program is funded by the U.S. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ). AHRQ and its contractor develop and maintain the surveys, toolkit materials, and databases; provide technical assistance and education; and promote the use of the surveys for patient safety culture improvement.

AHRQ developed the Hospital Survey on Patient Safety Culture and released it in 2004. In 2006, AHRQ developed a voluntary database for the Hospital SOPS composed of U.S. hospitals that voluntarily submitted data. AHRQ has also developed patient safety culture surveys for other settings:  Nursing Home (2008), Medical Office (2009), Community Pharmacy (2012), and Ambulatory Surgery Centers (2015). At this time, voluntary databases exist for all surveys except the Ambulatory Surgery Center survey. To participate in the database, you may not change the survey items or survey order.

Using the SOPS Trademark

When using any of the SOPS surveys, reference the full name "Surveys on Patient Safety Culture™ (SOPS)" with the trademark symbol (™) to indicate trademark is pending. In the text of written documents (journal articles, press coverage, etc.), spell out the name the first time that it appears, followed by SOPS in parentheses: "Surveys on Patient Safety Culture™ (SOPS) program." Please indicate that this is a program of the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.

If you are administering a patient safety culture survey that is based on a SOPS survey or uses items from a SOPS survey, please refer to the guidelines on modifying and naming SOPS surveys in Using the AHRQ Surveys on Patient Safety Culture™.

Additional Resources

Action Planning Tool (PDF, 776.7 KB; Word, 111.77 KB)—This tool was designed primarily for users of the AHRQ Surveys on Patient Safety Culture and is intended for use after an organization administers the survey and analyzes the results. It provides step-by-step guidance to help survey users develop an action plan to improve patient safety culture.

Research Reference List—The purpose of this research reference list is to provide citations for published articles referring to AHRQ safety culture surveys or data analyses. It includes references on the use of the surveys; psychometric analyses; analyses linking the survey to outcome data; reviews of instruments; and international studies.

Frequently Asked Questions—The Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) document provides answers to a wide range of questions about the SOPS program as well as the specific survey instruments. Users can search the FAQs by topic.

Improving Response Rates on the AHRQ Surveys on Patient Safety Culture—This podcast will provide listeners with information on tips and tools to increase an organization's survey response rates.

International Users

AHRQ is interested in finding out about international users of the Surveys on Patient Safety Culture. If you are an international user, please email SafetyCultureSurveys@westat.com to share information about your administration of the surveys, results, and any translations you have made of the surveys. For more information about international use of the Surveys on Patient Safety Culture, go to International Users.

Technical Assistance

Page last reviewed August 2017
Page originally created July 2012
Internet Citation: Surveys on Patient Safety Culture™. Content last reviewed August 2017. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, MD. http://www.ahrq.gov/professionals/quality-patient-safety/patientsafetyculture/index.html