Thursday, May 05, 2016

Going Public With Your Mistakes: The Brigham & Women's Hospital in Boston

Imagine a hospital that discusses its mistakes publicly.   Does that sound like a good idea?  Could it help advance the cause of patient safety.  Yesterday we learned that scholars at Johns Hopkins have conducted research demonstrating that medical errors are the third leading cause of death in the United States.   That's alarming in its own right, but especially so since many hospitals have been  trying to reduce medical accidents over the past decade.   

The Brigham & Women's Hospital in Boston has been trying to reduce errors, and now they have taken their efforts one step further.   They have decided to go public with a safety blog that they have been publishing internally for several years. I applaud their courageous decision. Karen Fiumara, senior director of patient safety at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, explains the decision to go public about the hospital's mistakes.  

Hospitals celebrate their safety records, but rarely discuss their mistakes. Yet it’s difficult, if not impossible, to improve safety without identifying and learning from errors. That’s why Brigham and Women’s Hospital has launched Safety Matters. This blog aims to describe mistakes made at the hospital along with steps the hospital is taking to prevent them in the future.  We began Safety Matters in 2011. At the time, it was an internal communication available only to Brigham and Women’s employees via the hospital’s intranet. One goal is to make sure that everyone on the staff knows that the hospital is committed to being open and transparent about mistakes and learning from them. Another goal is to convey that reporting mistakes is not only encouraged, but is also the right thing to do.  Another element of some blog entries is the “Just Culture Corner.” It helps promote a culture in which hospital staff and patients feel safe and supported when speaking up about mistakes and risks.

Safety Matters went public in January 2016. We did this for several reasons:
  • It’s now more accessible to the entire staff, and can be read from home or a mobile device.
  • It demonstrates to patients, prospective patients, and other stakeholders that the hospital is committed to transparency and continuous improvement.
  • It can be a resource for other hospitals in the United States and around the world to provide safer patient care.

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