KU Leuven: New framework offers tools for open communication after a patient safety incident

Belgian healthcare institutions lack a national framework for open and transparent communication after a patient safety incident. That is why the Flemish Patient Platform (VPP) and the Leuven Institute for Healthcare Policy (LIGB KU Leuven) joined forces to draw up a framework for open disclosure . This offers handles for a wide range of incidents.

International research shows that 10 percent of the admitted patients become involved in a less or more serious patient safety incident. Some patients die prematurely from unintended care-related harm. In Belgium, this amounts to several thousand incidents with damage per year and this has an impact on the patient, the relatives as well as the care provider involved and the organization in which they work. Learning from incidents and talking about them openly appears to be a critical success factor in the search for continuous quality improvement as well as in the processing process of all those involved. “Patients appreciate an open attitude and a ‘sorry’, which means that a solution is more often found in mutual consultation,” says Ilse Weeghmans (VPP).

Involving open communication between healthcare providers and patients in a patient safety incident is important, but often accompanied by uncertainty and persistent myths. With this framework, the VPP and LIGB-KU Leuven want to provide answers to questions such as: What information can you share with the patient and family? Can you apologize? How do you apply open disclosure ? Who do you involve in this? What are the principles of open disclosure and how does an open disclosure process proceed ?

In addition to the framework, they also developed a flow chart , as a guide for practical use. The diagram provides an overview of the process as well as the main principles of open disclosure .

Foundation to build on
In the first place, this framework focuses on the process of open disclosure in healthcare institutions, but it can also form a basis for healthcare providers who are confronted with a patient safety incident outside a healthcare institution and want to start an open disclosure process.

The VPP and the LIGB therefore argue that this framework can still be expanded. “We do not exclude that in the future we will add documents to the framework that specifically fit in a different context such as primary care,” says Professor Steven Lierman (LIGB-KU Leuven).

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