Communication and Resolution Programs to Improve Patient Safety

Most senior healthcare executives agreed that a healthcare system that embraces transparency will produce safer care and better outcomes, but a minority are happy with the current degree of transparency in their organization.

Most senior healthcare executives (93%) agreed that a healthcare system that embraces transparency will produce safer care and better outcomes, according to the poll results of the National Patient Safety Foundation’s (NPSF) annual Patient Safety Congress. However, only 22% said they were satisfied with the degree of transparency in their organization.

According to the NPSF, making transparency part of routine practice starts with focusing on the relationship between clinicians and patients, and it has developed a series of best practice approaches and educational opportunities specific to Communication and Resolution Programs.

“Transparency is essential if professionals and organizations are to learn from mistakes and implement practices to keep them from recurring,” note Tejal K. Gandhi, MD, MPH, CPPS, and Patricia McTiernan, MS, of the NPSF, writing in “A Necessary Step to Safer Care,” published online in Inside Medical Liability.

The domains where transparency must become part of routine practice include:

  • Between clinicians and patients, so patients are informed of all aspects of care
  • Among clinicians to improve care coordination
  • Among organizations to share best practices
  • With the public, through understandable, timely, and useful metrics that patients can use to guide decisions on care.

NPSF acknowledges there are barriers that prevent greater openness, such as the fear of litigation and concerns about damage to a provider’s or organization’s reputation when something goes wrong. However, the report points out that these fears are unfounded, according to organizations that have pursued greater transparency.

“While clinical care is an important focus for expanding openness, it is only one area of healthcare where greater transparency is needed,” the authors concluded. “If we really want to lead through learning, we must move toward greater transparency among clinicians through peer review or other mechanisms; among organizations through regional or national collaboratives; and with the public, through reporting of useful quality and safety metrics.”