How to communicate with patients after an error occurs

It's often difficult for clinicians and administrators to say they are sorry when something goes wrong with patient care. And that lack of communication leaves patients and families confused, wondering what happened and whether they should file a lawsuit to find the answers.

But a new online toolkit from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality can help clinicians eliminate that "wall of silence" and culture of secrecy.

The Communication and Optimal Resolution (CANDOR) kit is a communication and resolution process designed to open lines of communication between clinicians, patients and their families after harm occurs. The free program, which includes eight training modules, also encourages clinicians to report near misses and errors to better inform patients.

"Medical harm can impact patients twice--first by the harm itself, and then by the wall of silence that can follow," AHRQ Director Andy Bindman, M.D., said in the announcement. "This toolkit helps foster honest and transparent communication in an effort to rebuild trust and support safer care for patients."

The program is based on input from experts and lessons learned from a $23 million patient safety grant initiative and was piloted in14 hospitals across three health systems: Christiana Care in Delaware, Dignity Health in California and MedStar Health in Baltimore and District of Columbia regions. It was developed under contract by the American Hospital Association's (AHA) Health Research and Education Trust foundation.

"Every day in American hospitals, countless doctors, nurses and other caregivers perform miracles for patients. And while one incident is one too many, sometimes errors occur," Richard J. Pollack, president and CEO of AHA, said in the announcement. "This toolkit helps everyone involved--patients, families, clinicians, and administrators--discuss what happened, agree on a resolution and make care safer in the long run."

To learn more:
- visit the CANDOR website
- read the announcement