A transparent culture

Patient-centered care is the new, hip phrase that has been used by many hospitals in recent years. It is mentioned in briefings and memos, discussed during meetings, and plastered over walls. It is used to demonstrate how hospitals are changing their culture and mindset as they venture into a new era of modern medicine. The patient is now empowered to be informed and make decisions. It is getting back to the reason why we all went into medicine; to improve the quality of life for the patients we serve. I am completely in favor of and embrace this new approach. However, all too often, I am afraid that this new phrase is little more than a marketing gimmick; just a phrase to give the appearance of cultural change without the intended meaning.

One way to ensure that hospitals are truly engaging in patient-centered care is to evaluate an institution’s transparency. This refers to transparency in outcomes; transparency in reported incidents; transparency in disclosure. Only when an institution is open, honest, and transparent, can measures be taken to learn from mistakes. Mistakes and errors are, unfortunately, inevitable. They are also teachable moments. Only through honesty can one truly examine the systems in place that led to a certain event and only if one has a transparent system can one get a full understanding of the variables.

Only through transparency can an institution truly embrace a patient-centered culture. I view a transparent institution as one who pays more than lip service to the phrase “patient-centered” culture. It demonstrates a true willingness and desire to learn from mistakes to hopefully prevent future mishaps. The real question will be, does transparency lead to cultural change, or does cultural change need to happen so as to improve transparency?