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Member Health Survey

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The Member Health Survey was implemented to address researcher and policymaker needs

The Member Health Survey (MHS) was first conducted in 1993 at a time when there was little information about non-hospitalized Kaiser Permanente Northern California members beyond age, sex, residence, and number of outpatient visits. This was long before the implementation of Kaiser Permanente's electronic medical record system or Kaiser Permanente HealthConnect.

The survey was designed to address the needs of Kaiser Permanente researchers who required information to be able to describe the adult health plan membership in research proposals and publications and of health education departments that needed information to plan patient and health education services.

To address these dual needs, all surveys conducted prior to 2017 employed a geographically stratified sampling design that enabled collection of enough survey data to profile adult members in each of our 19 largest medical center service populations. Survey respondent weighting factors similar to those used for state and national health surveys are used to make the survey results better describe the age-sex composition of the medical center service populations than the survey respondents. We then combine the weighted medical center service population data to profile the adult membership of our Northern California region.

The survey design was changed in 2017 due to a reduction in the size of the survey sample for financial reasons. Instead of sampling from medical center service populations, we will be sampling from racial/ethnic groups. Survey respondent data will be weighted to reflect the age-sex and race/ethnic composition of the adult membership in 2017.

The Member Health Surveys project is supported by funds allocated to the Division of Research by Kaiser Permanente Northern California’s Community Benefit Program.

How often we conduct the Member Health Survey

The Member Health Survey was conducted every 3 years 1993 through 2011. For the 2014 cycle, data collection was split over 2 years (2014/2015). In 2017 we will be collecting data in one year with half the number of people surveyed in prior survey cycles.

Types of information available from the Member Health Survey

  • Sociodemographic characteristics
  • Health status and selected chronic health problems
  • Health behaviors, lifestyle factors, psychosocial risks, social determinants of health
  • Use of complementary and alternative therapies (CAM) and dietary supplements
  • Receipt of selected prevention services
  • Use of digital technologies relevant to accessing and communicating health information
  • Modality preferences for obtaining health information and advice

See Survey Description for more information about the survey content and methodology.

Value of self-reported Member Health Survey data even in an age of electronic health records

Kaiser Permanente's electronic data capture about member health and service utilization has grown by leaps and bounds. However, the Member Health Survey is still the only systematic source of data about a large number of health-related characteristics that are infrequently captured in the electronic health record. Additionally, the Member Health Survey remains the most comparable source of Kaiser Permanente population statistics to other health surveys based on self-reported data, such as the California Behavioral Risk Factor Survey, California Health Interview Survey, and National Health Interview Survey. 

Member Health Survey data can also be linked to electronic health data and Census-derived data

An additional value of the self-reported data collected in the Member Health Survey is that it can be linked at the individual level to Kaiser Permanente administrative and clinical information for purposes of research with approval of KPNC’s IRB. Survey data can also be geocoded to link with Census-derived data and other geographic information. To protect confidentiality, we use a unique identifier and do not release information to anyone outside of Kaiser Permanente’s Division of Research (including to other departments within Kaiser Permanente) in a way that can be used to identify survey respondents. We are approved to link KPNC and geocoded data to survey respondents and also to survey non-respondents, e.g., to study sources and effects of survey response bias or to create new weighting factors.

Descriptive Reports Produced Using Member Health Survey Data

For each survey cycle, we produce reports describing the demographic and health-related characteristics of the Kaiser Permanente Northern California region adult membership and the adult memberships in each of our 19 medical center service populations and major sub-regions. In addition, we use data from single or multiple survey years to produce reports on topics of special interest, such as prevalence of different health problems and health risks, health disparities, and factors associated with access to digital technologies.

We encourage use of our survey results by the community and use of our survey data for collaborative research

All summary statistics in reports posted on the website can be used for research and program planning purposes. A request can be made to the Member Health Survey director, Nancy Gordon, if other statistics are needed. Member Health Survey data, alone or linked with other electronic health and Census-derived data, are also sometimes made available to researchers outside of the KPNC Division of Research (DOR) for KPNC IRB-approved research. This research must be a collaborative study with a DOR researcher. To protect respondent confidentiality, any survey datasets that will be analyzed by non-DOR will be de-identified.