In an effort to improve care and avoid errors, Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston is revealing its mistakes in a newsletter called “Safety Matters.”

The e-mail newsletter is sent to the hospital’s 16,000 employees in the hopes of encouraging staff members to speak openly about mistakes to determine possible solutions. Although some hospitals post information about infection rates and falls, medical errors are rarely discussed publicly or candidly.

In marked contrast, the Brigham newsletter recounts stories of health care gone wrong via interviews with patients and caregivers, and then describes the hospital’s response. To protect privacy neither patients’ nor practitioners’ real names are used, as the hospital does not want to discourage staff from reporting issues.

Elizabeth G. Nabel, MD, Brigham’s chief executive, is driving the hospital’s efforts. Last fall, Nabel described her own experience making a medical error, and how in the aftermath she felt afraid to discuss it with anyone for fear of being shunned by her colleagues. Rather than placing blame, the newsletter aims to identify possible improvements and hopes to help healthcare practitioners understand the error from the patient’s perspective.


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Later this spring, the hospital plans to start distributing paper copies of “Safety Matters” in staff lounges, conference rooms and other high-traffic areas. Although some hospital administrators were initially concerned that leaving the newsletter in places where patients might see it could potentially scare them, the consensus is that the transparency about errors and implementation of better safety procedures makes it worthwhile.