Frequently Asked Questions

Check to find the answers to your questions about the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) programs and activities. You can search by category or key words. You can also send us your questions or website feedback here. We will respond to your requests based on the best available scientific evidence and research from our Agency.

AHRQ cannot provide diagnoses or specific medical advice to individuals on their personal health conditions and situations.

Ask a question, report a problem, or give us your opinion about a specific AHRQ program.


The Privacy Act of 1974 is a code of fair information practices which mandates how Federal Government Agencies, such as AHRQ, shall maintain records about individuals.

The Privacy Act requires that Government Agencies:

  • Collect only information that is relevant and necessary to carry out an Agency function.
  • Maintain no secret records on individuals.
  • Explain at the time the information is being collected, why it is needed and how it will be used.
  • Ensure that the records are used only for the reasons given, or seek the person's permission when another purpose for their use is considered necessary or desirable.
  • Provide adequate safeguards to protect the records from unauthorized access and disclosure.
  • Allow people to see the records kept on them and provide them with the opportunity to correct inaccuracies in their records.

Select for more information on the Privacy Act.

The Patient Safety Act recognizes that aggregation of patient safety and health care quality data can be made easier by the use of common data definitions and data formats. To facilitate the collection and reporting of information as envisioned by the Patient Safety Act, AHRQ developed, and continues to expand, Common Formats for use in multiple health care settings by health care providers and Patient Safety Organizations (PSOs). Common Formats can be used by any organization and provider, not just those working with a PSO.

Currently, the Common Formats are available for three settings of care: acute care hospitals, nursing homes, and community pharmacies.

AHRQ's most recent development in this areas is Common Formats for Surveillance—Hospital, which are designed to provide, through retrospective review of medical records, information that is complementary to that derived from event reporting systems. These Formats will facilitate improved detection of events and calculation of adverse event rates in populations reviewed. Previously, Common Formats have been designed to support only traditional event reporting.

To learn more about the Common Formats, go to

To access the most current versions of the Common Formats, go to

Additional information regarding the Patient Safety Act, the implementing regulation (Patient Safety Rule), Patient Safety Organizations (PSOs), Common Formats, and related topics can be found at the AHRQ PSO website:

The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) develops research and evidence, tools and training materials, and data and measures:

  • AHRQ invests in research on the Nation's health delivery system that goes beyond the "what" of health care to understand "how" to make health care safer and improve quality.
  • AHRQ creates materials to teach and train health care systems and professionals to put the results of research into practice.
  • AHRQ generates measures and data used by providers and policymakers.

For details, check out the AHRQ Profile.

AHRQ has a well-established social media presence that continues to grow with the goal of reaching our audiences where they spend time. We currently use Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and LinkedIn. Some of these platforms have several AHRQ-related accounts. We also have an agency blog, AHRQ Views, where AHRQ leaders write blog posts that draw from Agency data and research to explore changes in the U.S. health system.

Here is a list of our current social media accounts:

For the purposes of the Medical Office Survey on Patient Safety Culture, the survey was designed to measure the culture of patient safety in medical offices with the following characteristics:

  • A medical office should be an outpatient facility in a specific location. A medical practice or health care system may have multiple medical offices in different locations, but each unique location would be considered a separate medical office for survey administration and feedback.
  • A medical office could be located in a building containing multiple medical offices, but each office in the building would be considered a separate medical office for the purposes of the survey.
  • Providers in a single medical office should share some or all administrative staff, such as receptionists and schedulers, and share some or all clinical support staff.

These characteristics are essential because the survey asks respondents about patient safety and quality issues for a specific medical office location. The survey can be administered to multiple medical offices within a practice, health care system, or building, but each medical office would have to be identified as a separate office rather than being surveyed as one entity.

A nursing home is a facility or a special contained area of a facility that has only licensed nursing home beds and is not an assisted living, community care, or independent living facility. The survey was designed to measure resident safety culture in a nursing home facility or in a special contained area of a facility (e.g., a hospital) that includes only licensed nursing home beds, so it is important to understand the type of nursing home facility that the survey was designed for.

  • It was not designed for use in assisted living facilities, community care facilities, or independent living facilities.
  • If a nursing home is located on a large campus or facility that has a mix of nursing home and other long-term care programs (such as independent living, assisted living, and rehabilitation services), survey only the facilities or areas with nursing home beds. Exclude staff who work only in areas with independent living, assisted living, or rehabilitation beds.

Spanish versions are available for the following AHRQ Surveys on Patient Safety Culture:

The Spanish translations are designed for U.S. Spanish-speaking respondents from different countries.

A number of translations in other languages have already been developed by international users who have agreed to share their contact information. Please visit the International Survey Users page for a list of current languages and translation guidelines.

For more information on translating the surveys, contact the Surveys on Patient Safety Culture team ( to request AHRQ’s permission to translate and/or use the surveys internationally.

AHRQ established the Nursing Home SOPS Database as a central repository for survey data from the Nursing Home SOPS. AHRQ has produced Database Reports, which aggregate data from hundreds of nursing homes that have voluntarily submitted their data to the database. The database serves as an important resource for patient safety culture improvement.

Information about eligibility requirements, registration procedures, and benefits of participating in the database is available on the SOPS site.

The AHRQ Surveys on Patient Safety Culture have several advantages. They are:

  1. Available free to the public. The surveys were developed by AHRQ and are available free of charge.
  2. An organization-wide instrument. The surveys were designed to be administered to all types of staff, including clinical and nonclinical,in hospitals, nursing homes, medical offices, community pharmacies, and ambulatory surgery centers. They can be used to assess individual units or departments, or can be administered organization-wide.
  3. Reliable and valid. The survey development process was careful and rigorous, based on a review of the existing research and other culture surveys. More important, the survey items have demonstrated reliability and validity (For more details, refer to the survey Toolkit materials available on the AHRQ website at
  4. Comprehensive and specific. The surveys cover several areas of patient safety culture, providing a level of detail that helps organizations identify specific areas of strength and areas for improvement. In addition, there are supplemental items that users may add to assess content in areas not included in the core questionnaire (e.g., Health Information Technology Patient Safety Supplement Items and Value and Efficiency Supplemental Items).
  5. Easy to use. Each survey has an accompanying Toolkit that contains the following materials:
    • Survey Forms.
    • Survey Items and Dimensions.
    • A Survey User's Guide: Gives step-by-step instructions on how to select a sample, administer the survey and obtain high response rates, and how to analyze and report results.
    • Data Entry and Analysis Tool: A data entry and analysis tool that works with Microsoft® Excel and makes it easy to input your individual-level data from the survey. The tool then automatically creates tables and graphs to display your survey results. To request the tool for the hospital, medical office, nursing home, community pharmacy, or ambulatory surgery center survey, send an email to:

Ask a question, report a problem, or give us your opinion about a specific AHRQ program.