Transparency and Patient Safety

Transparency and Patient Safety

Published: May 1st, 2017

Transparency is considered an essential element to improving the quality of health care. Without transparency, patients cannot make informed decisions. Without transparency, it is not possible to have a culture of safety.

What is transparency?

Transparency is defined as the free and uninhibited flow of information that is open to the scrutiny of others. (2) Some believe that transparency can be used as an effective tool to help boost patient safety in multiple ways such as increasing accountability, facilitating improvements in quality and safety, promoting trust between providers and patients, and encouraging patient choice. Many healthcare organizations have their increased efforts to improve transparency and sharing of publicly reported performance measures. However, there is more work to be done and as with any change comes fears associated with creating a culture of improved safety. (3)

What are some of the barriers to transparency?

Barriers to transparency are deep-rooted within the healthcare industry, just a few of these include:

  • Fear- Fear is a significant barrier to achieving transparency. Fears of conflict, disclosure, and potential negative effects on reputation and finances.
  • Lack of leadership- the absence of leadership in many organizations that is willing to do what it takes to create a culture of safety.
  • Keeping the status quo- individuals and organizations seeking to maintain the status quo may resist sharing information in order protect their financial, reputational, and other interests.
  • Lack of reliable metrics and standards for reporting (3)

Although there are many barriers, there is a lot that healthcare organizations can do to begin moving toward improved transparency:

  • Create an organizational culture that supports transparency at every level.
  • Consistently review safety performance data.
  • Provide patients and family members with accurate and reliable information in a manner that is useful to them.
  • Include patients in bedside rounds.
  • Provide patients and their families with complete information regarding any injury resulting from treatment, followed by an apology and fair resolution.
  • Provide good support to patients, families, and the clinical staff involved in a safety incident.
  • Learn from and share best practices with other peer organizations.

Considering all of the obstacles to achieving true transparency, it is not an easy feat and will certainly not happen overnight. Success requires the collaborative support and commitment from just about everyone, from executive leadership to physicians, and the board. Transparency is not only the right thing to do; it is one of the most effective ways to make improvements within a healthcare system, across the entire care continuum. (2)