Unexpected Outcomes Are An Inevitable Part Of Health Care

Open disclosure is a term used to describe the process for communicating when there has been an adverse or unexpected outcome during care or treatment. 

It is important for recovery and ongoing health as it allows health practitioners to manage any consequences appropriately.

Acknowledging the event goes to promoting a culture of working to reduce the likelihood of a similar event occurring in the future.

The Team at Tego want you to be informed

As medical indemnity insurance providers in Australia, Tego wants you to be informed and up to date. Open disclosure is a very challenging part of anyone’s practice and if you require advice or assistance when dealing with this issue, please do not hesitate and contact us.

The Australian Open Disclosure Framework

The Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Healthcare (ACSQHC) has produced an Australian Open Disclosure Framework to promote a nationally consistent approach, across all healthcare settings, for communication when there has been an unexpected healthcare outcome and harm.

Open Disclosure entails:

  • An open, face-to-face, factual and non-speculative discussion of what happened and the potential consequences of the event.
  • Patients should be encouraged to bring a friend or relative for support during any discussions
  • Useful materials and resources including planning and preparation templates, flow charts, checklists and documentation templates are available and may assist you to understand the what, when, where, why and how of conducting an open disclosure. 

Keep communication open and ongoing

Although Open Disclosure should be made in a timely fashion, communication and support should be ongoing and should include:

  • Being available and responsive.
  • Providing your contact details or ensure that you can be reached if they have any concerns. 
  • Provide reassurance and support with ongoing monitoring throughout recovery.
  • Communication with the GP and other relevant health practitioners is also recommended. 

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The power of an apology – saying sorry

An apology and expression of regret, in conjunction with saying sorry, is integral to Open Disclosure and can go a long way to maintaining a good relationship. 

Saying Sorry: a guide to apologising and expressing regret provides practical suggestions on the three key points of Open Disclosure including:

  • Explaining appropriate phrases to use, phrases such as “I am very sorry this has happened” or “I am sorry that this hasn’t turned out as expected”, and things to avoid.
  • Considering the importance of the delivery of the apology.
  • The value of listening and the opportunity to be heard.

Does the framework suit private practice? 

The guide implementing the Australian Open Disclosure Framework in small practices should be used to assist sole practitioners and others in small practices to implement open disclosure in accordance with the framework.

What if I work in a hospital or day surgery? 

If an error or an adverse event occurs in a hospital setting, it is important to follow the hospital’s policy with regards to Open Disclosure and incident notification. Hospital policy will provide guidance as to when and how to make disclosure, and usually sets out certain obligations and who is to undertake them.

Do I need to disclose if no harm has or will come to the patient?

Consideration should be given to the issues that could arise from withholding information. An apology that an event occurred, and reassurance that there will be no harmful consequences (if it can be given) may appease any aggrieved feelings and prevent a complaint or claim.

Contact Tego to learn more

Tego’s Claims and Legal Services team has extensive experience with Open Disclosure.  

We offer medical indemnity insurance, doctors indemnity insurance, gp medical indemnity insurance, medical practice insurance, medical malpractice insurance and more.

We have a profound understanding of the Australian medical profession and the ever-changing healthcare industry. It’s this expertise that allows us to provide leading cover with more choice, innovation and greater flexibility. Contact us to discuss any concerns you may have when an adverse event has occurred.

This publication is general in nature and is not comprehensive or constitute legal or medical advice. You should seek legal, medical or other professional advice before relying on any content, and practice proper clinical decision making with regard to individual circumstances. Persons implementing any recommendations contained in this publication must exercise their own independent skill or judgment or seek appropriate professional advice relevant to their own particular practice. Compliance with any recommendations will not in any way guarantee discharge of the duty of care owed to patients and others coming into contact with the health professional or practice. Tego Insurance Pty Ltd is not responsible to you or anyone else for any loss su­ffered in connection with the use of this information.