6 keys to become a more transparent, safer hospital

Transparency is the antidote to many of the problems that plague healthcare, and increasing it will lead to better outcomes, greater satisfaction and reduced costs, according to a report issued by the National Patient Safety Foundation's Lucian Leape Institute.

The report, titled "Shining a Light: Safer Health Care Through Transparency," was the result of two roundtable discussions that focused on transparency between clinicians and patients; among clinicians themselves; among healthcare organizations; and between providers and the public.

"Transparency has been largely overlooked as a patient safety tool, in part because it requires a foundation of a safety culture and strong organizational leadership," Gary Kaplan, M.D., CEO of Virginia Mason Health System, a Hospital Impact blogger and one of the co-chairs of the initiative, said in a statement. "The barriers are not necessarily easy to overcome, but we will never truly achieve safe patient care without improvements in transparency in each of the domains we cite."

To further the goal of increased transparency, the report made a number of recommendations for all stakeholders in healthcare, then tailored some recommendations to specific groups. Here's some of the actions it suggests healthcare leaders take:

  • Frequently review comprehensive safety performance data
  • Be transparent about the membership of your organization's board
  • Create processes for reporting, analyzing, sharing and using safety data for improvement
  • Establish mechanisms to adopt best safety practices from other organizations
  • Link promotion and compensation of leaders to cultural transformation and transparency results
  • Report performance to reliable, transparent entities that make the data usable to patients

Transparency between providers and the public has gained steam in recent years, thanks in part to provisions set forth in the Affordable Care Act such as the Physician Payment Sunshine Act, which requires all providers to disclose their financial relationships with medical manufacturers, FierceHealthcare has reported. But the rollout of that initiative has been rife with challenges, underscoring some of the "overarching barriers to achieving transparency" outlined in the foundation's report.

In a similar vein, consumer advocates continue to push for greater price transparency from both payers and providers, and some research has tied better doctor-patient relations to improved outcomes and even malpractice reform, according to FierceHealthcare.

"If transparency were a medication, it would be a blockbuster, with billions of dollars in sales and accolades the world over," the transparency report notes. But "like any strong medication, it needs to be given by competent institutions and clinicians, and patients need to understand how it works."

To learn more:
- check out the report (pdf)
- read the statement