Tuesday, March 18, 2008

First-ever national guidelines to assist and support healthcare providers in the disclosure of adverse events to patients and their families

March 18, 2008: TORONTO -- The Canadian Patient Safety Institute (CPSI) and the Disclosure Working Group today released the first-ever national guidelines to assist and support healthcare providers in the disclosure of adverse events to patients and their families. Experts from organizations representing physicians, nurses, pharmacists, healthcare providers, patients and others created the Canadian Disclosure Guidelines through nearly two years of collaborative effort.

"A focus on patient safety is now emerging in Canada in an effort to learn from and take coordinated action to reduce preventable harm and death," said CPSI Chief Executive Officer Philip Hassen. "CPSI has been pleased to provide coordination, leadership and funding support to the Disclosure Working Group, whose tireless efforts to develop the guidelines have resulted in an important tool for supporting open and transparent communication between providers and patients."

"The Canadian Disclosure Guidelines are intended to assist and support the development and implementation of disclosure policies, practices and training methods. They represent a commitment to the patient's right to be informed if they are involved in an adverse event, by promoting a clear and consistent approach to disclosure, emphasizing inter-professional teamwork, and supporting learning from adverse events."

"The guidelines build on various patient safety initiatives currently underway across Canada," said Working Group chair Brent Windwick. "Through them, we hope to encourage healthcare providers to develop or enhance their disclosure policies and practices by incorporating the core elements, but in ways that are adapted to their respective needs."

For patients and their families, the guidelines stress the importance of providing an apology, timely information and access to further health care, designating a knowledgeable and familiar staff member to provide practical and emotional support, and assisting patients in accessing additional provider and personal supports.

"Things can happen with any type of treatment or care, but when they do, disclosure is very important," said Working Group member and Patients for Patient Safety Canada member, Katharina Kovacs Burns. "As stressful as this may be for healthcare providers, who are the ones disclosing, as well as the patients and families who get the news, apologies are always appreciated. Apologies are a sign of caring, compassion and empathy, not guilt or blame."

For healthcare providers, the guidelines present clear expectations on what should be done to disclose information and assist patients and their families when harm occurs. The guidelines also promote the adoption of a variety of strategies to make organizational and professional supports available to providers, as well as discourage speculation or attribution of blame.

"Adverse events affect thousands of patients every year in Canada," said Working Group member and registered nurse Carolyn Hoffman. "These guidelines support frontline staff and senior healthcare leaders as they enter into timely disclosure conversations with their patients. Open and honest communication following an adverse event helps everyone to learn what happened and what may prevent the same thing from ever happening again."

"Patients are treated and healed through a relationship with their healthcare providers that is based on trust and respect," said Working Group member Dr. Ward Flemons. "When adverse events occur, that relationship is at risk. Timely, truthful and transparent disclosure can re-establish patient/provider trust and is always the right thing to do."

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