Nearly 15 years ago, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) issued its landmark report, To Err is Human, sending shockwaves across the country regarding the incidence of preventable harm in healthcare. It’s hard to believe that after all these years, our industry still struggles to create an environment where it is safe for patients to get care and for caregivers to give care. In my travels across the country working with hospitals, clinicians, patients, professional organizations and other companies, I have come to appreciate the importance of leadership, culture and transparency as keys to improving patient safety.

I recently participated in a roundtable on transparency, hosted by the National Patient Safety Foundation’s Lucian Leape Institute. Roundtable participants represented the spectrum of stakeholders, including patient advocates, nursing and physician leadership, and experts from health systems, quality measurement, risk management, media, government, payer, academia, industry, ambulatory, national organizations and research organizations.

The report from our roundtable, Shining a Light: Safer Health Care Through Transparency (PDF, 1.3 MB), was released last week, urging full transparency in healthcare as a “magic pill” to improve patient safety. We define transparency as “the free, uninhibited flow of information that is open to the scrutiny of others,” and call for sweeping action within and across organizations, between clinicians and patients, and in public reporting.

We identified four domains where the open exchange of information is necessary in order 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 healthcare consumers

In all, the report outlines more than three dozen recommendations, some requiring bold actions and demonstrating what I like to call the courage of our convictions. Whether you are an individual clinician, a CEO, a board member, a policymaker or in countless other healthcare roles, there are specific actions you can take to embrace the culture of safety. I encourage you to download the report and share it within your sphere of influence to shine the light on our need for transparency. It’s not only the right thing to do, but it will lead to better outcomes, fewer errors, more satisfied patients, and reduced costs of care.

To join the discussion, register for the live webinar on Feb. 12, 2015, when members of the Institute’s Roundtable on Transparency will discuss the report.

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About the author

Mary Beth Navarra-Sirio, RN, MBA, is vice president Regulatory Strategy, and patient safety officer for McKesson. She is responsible for developing and implementing strategies that improve patient safety within the McKesson product lines, lectures nationally on patient safety and nursing leadership, and has provided testimony to the FDA and the Institute of Medicine (IOM). Mary Beth is chair of McKesson’s Patient Safety workgroup, is a member of the EHRA Patient Safety Committee, and is vice-chair of the Board of Directors of the National Patient Safety Foundation.

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