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Member Health Survey

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 (KPNC) 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 KPNC 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 were used to make the survey results better describe the age-sex composition of the medical center service populations than the survey respondents. We then combined the weighted medical center service population data to create a profile of the adult membership in 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 sampled from racial/ethnic groups using KPNC’s improved race/ethnicity data. Survey respondent data were weighted to reflect the age-sex and racial/ethnic composition of the KPNC adult membership (in 2016 for the 2017 survey and in 2019 for the 2020 survey).

Since its inception, the Member Health Surveys project has been supported by funds allocated to the Division of Research by Kaiser Permanente Northern California’s Community Health Program.

How often we conduct the Member Health Survey

The Member Health Survey was conducted every 3 years 1993 through 2011, with the exception of the 2014 cycle, which collected data over 2 years (2014/2015). Member Health Survey data collection ended with the 2020 survey cycle.

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 integrative health (CIH) modalities and dietary supplements
  • Receipt of selected prevention services, including health advice
  • 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 has been 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 source of statistics about the KPNC membership most comparable to those from 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 the data can be linked at the individual level to KPNC electronic administrative and clinical data for purposes of research with approval of KPNC’s Institutional Review Board (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 the KPNC Division of Research (including to other departments within Kaiser Permanente) in a way that can be used to identify survey respondents. We also have IRB approval to link KPNC and geocoded data to survey non-respondents to study sources and effects of survey response bias and to create new weighting factors.

Descriptive reports produced using Member Health Survey data

For each survey cycle, we have produced reports describing the demographic and health-related characteristics of the KPNC region adult membership. Through the 2014/2015 survey cycle, we also produced reports profiling the adult memberships in each of KPNC’s 19 medical center service populations and major sub-regions. In addition, we have used 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. Member Health Survey data, alone or linked with other electronic health record and Census-derived data, are also sometimes made available to researchers outside of the KPNC Division of Research for KPNC IRB-approved research. This research must be a collaborative study with a Division of Research researcher. To protect respondent confidentiality, any survey datasets that will be analyzed by individuals not employed by the Division of Research will be de-identified.

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