03:55pm Friday 06 December 2019

New Report Identifies Transparency as a Means to Improve Patient Safety

Shining a Light: Safer Health Care Through Transparency defines transparency as “the free, uninhibited flow of information that is open to the scrutiny of others,” and calls for sweeping action within and across organizations, between clinicians and patients, and in public reporting.

“We hope this report will help convince people that transparency is not only the right thing to do, but that it will lead to improved outcomes, fewer errors, more satisfied patients, and reduced costs of care,” said UC San Francisco’s Robert M. Wachter, MD, associate chair of the Department of Medicine. He and Gary Kaplan, MD, FACMPE, chief executive officer, Virginia Mason Health System, both members of the NPSF Lucian Leape Institute, served as co-chairs of this initiative.

The report addresses four distinct yet overlapping domains where the open exchange of information is necessary to improve safety:

  • Between clinicians and patients to ensure patients are well informed at all stages of their care
  • Among clinicians to ensure the practices of high performers are shared with their peers
  • Between organizations to allow greater collaboration on safety protocols and events
  • With the public through meaningful measures and data that is understandable and useful to health care consumers

The authors provide specific recommendations relevant to each domain and to the areas of measurement and leadership. In all, more than three dozen recommendations are outlined in the report addressing issues such as disclosure of conflicts of interest, shared decision making with patients, and development of core competencies for communicating about medical errors and quality measures to patients, families, other medical professionals, and the public.

Robert Wachter, MD

“Transparency has been largely overlooked as a patient safety tool, in part because it requires a foundation of a safety culture and strong organizational leadership,” said Kaplan. “The barriers are not necessarily easy to overcome, but we will never truly achieve safe patient care without improvements in transparency in each of the domains we cite.”

Increased transparency, the report says, will yield broad benefits by promoting accountability; catalyzing improvements in quality and safety; promoting trust and ethical behavior; and facilitating patient choice. The result of two roundtable meetings that included participants with a broad range of expertise, the report also includes case studies of how transparency is applied in practice. 

“We are grateful to our roundtable participants for the time and expertise they contributed to this report,” said Tejal K. Gandhi, MD, MPH, CPPS, president and CEO of NPSF and president of the Lucian Leape Institute. “This is a complex issue, and it is not going to happen overnight, but we believe advances in transparency will significantly improve patient safety.” 

This is the fifth in a series of reports about issues that the NPSF Lucian Leape Institute has identified as transforming concepts to improve patient safety. The first, Unmet Needs: Teaching Physicians to Provide Safe Patient Care (2010), addresses the need for teaching quality and safety principles in medical education. In 2012, the Institute published Order from Chaos: Accelerating Care Integration, which looks at the problem of fragmented care and possible solutions. Through the Eyes of the Workforce: Creating Joy, Meaning, and Safer Health Care (2013), details the profound problem of physical and psychological risks to the health care workforce. Safety Is Personal: Partnering with Patients and Families for the Safest Care (2014) looks at patient and family engagement in health care. All Institute reports are available for download on the website.

In addition to Drs. Leape, Gandhi, Kaplan, and Wachter, current members of the NPSF Lucian Leape Institute include Janet Corrigan, PhD, MBA, distinguished fellow, Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice; Susan Edgman-Levitan, PA, executive director, John D. Stoeckle Center for Primary Care Innovation at Massachusetts General Hospital; Gerald B. Hickson, MD, senior vice president for quality, safety and risk prevention, Joseph C. Ross Chair in Medical Education & Administration, assistant vice chancellor for health affairs, Vanderbilt University Medical Center; Julianne Morath, RN, MS, president and CEO, Hospital Quality Institute of California; Paul O’Neill, former chairman and CEO, Alcoa, and 72nd Secretary of the US Treasury; and Dennis S. O’Leary, MD, President Emeritus, The Joint Commission.

Members of the Institute’s Roundtable on Transparency will discuss the new report in a live webinar on February 12, 2015, from 12 noon to 1:00 pm Eastern Time. Registration is free of charge and open to all. Details are available at http://bit.ly/LLItransparency.

For more information about the report or the NPSF Lucian Leape Institute, visit www.npsf.org/lli.

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