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Advising Patients About Patient Safety: Current Initiatives Risk Shifting Responsibility

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Abstract:

Background: Many health care providers now disseminate advisories telling patients what they can do to avoid errors and harms in their care.

Methods: The content of five leading safety advisories for patients was analyzed and a critique of their development, content, and impact was developed, drawing on published literature and 40 interviews with a diverse sample of 50 key informants.

Findings: Very little is known about the effects of the distribution of safety advisories to patients, but several grounds for concern were identified. There was a lack of attention to patients' perspectives during the development of advisory messages, and the advisories say little about what health care providers should do to ensure patient safety. Patients are given little practical support to carry out the recommended actions, and health professionals' responses may render their attempts to act to secure their own safety ineffective. Some messages suggest an inappropriate shifting of responsibility onto patients. Advice that involves checking on or challenging health professionals' actions appears to be particularly problematic for patients. Such behaviors conflict with the expectations many people have—and think health professionals have—of patients' roles.

Discussion: A serious commitment to optimizing patients' contributions to safe care requires a researchbased understanding of patients' perspectives and more practical facilitation of patient involvement.

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: September 1, 2005

More about this publication?
  • Published monthly, The Joint Commission Journal on Quality and Patient Safety is a peer-reviewed publication dedicated to providing health professionals with the information they need to promote the quality and safety of health care. The Joint Commission Journal on Quality and Patient Safety invites original manuscripts on the development, adaptation, and/or implementation of innovative thinking, strategies, and practices in improving quality and safety in health care. Case studies, program or project reports, reports of new methodologies or new applications of methodologies, research studies on the effectiveness of improvement interventions, and commentaries on issues and practices are all considered.

    Also known as Joint Commission Journal on Quality Improvement and Joint Commission Journal on Quality and Safety
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