Improving transparency around medical error is a potential "magic bullet" that could finally start to make health care less hazardous after years of lacklustre efforts, concludes a new report from a major American patient-safety organization.
Increasing openness would bring "powerful effects" and cost relatively little to implement, the National Patient Safety Foundation report argues.
Among the institute's 39 recommendations is for health care institutions to create a culture where transparency is rewarded and failing to speak up brings "consequences"; informing all patients about their clinician's experience, outcomes and disciplinary history; and requiring that hospitals and other facilities publicly report on their performance.
"If transparency were a drug, it would likely be a blockbuster, given the evidence of its effectiveness and its enthusiastic endorsements from key stakeholders," said the organization. "How can patients fully trust the clinicians and organizations from which they receive care if these clinicians and organizations are not fully transparent?"
The report from the foundation's Lucian Leape Institute was released this week, as a National Post series revealed that most of the thousands of cases of serious medical error estimated to occur in Canadian hospitals every year go unreported even within the facilities. And less information about those mishaps is divulged publicly.
Four provinces release no data at all, most of the rest provide only limited statistics. Manitoba alone releases any detail — in the form of terse, one-line descriptions — on specific incidents.