Including Patients in Safety Culture

This post will be relatively short. I spent time writing a rather lengthy post about the healthcare story of someone close to me with her blessing. However, when I read what I had written back to her, after telling me to make a couple changes, she decided that she did not want me to post the story anymore. I respected her wish, but asked her why she changed her mind. After all, I had not included names. She said that she felt bad that some of the healthcare providers in her story looked bad and could maybe somehow figure out the story was about them. I think there was something to be learned about the premature closure, lack of informed consent and shared-decision making, and lack of respect for the patient’s perspective on her illness that led to harsh complications, but I realize that we have already had this opportunity through other stories. What I take away from this experience is that patients also need to be included in the safety culture. We should work with patients to understand that telling their story is not to blame a particular person, but to help fix the system; that they won’t get in trouble for telling the truth about the medical errors in their care. Ideally, patients would understand what a medical error even is and how frequently they occur. If not, patients will not want to speak up any more than providers who are afraid of placing blame.