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

The newsletter, which is electronically sent to the hospital’s 16,000 employees, was started to encourage staff to speak openly about mistakes and possible solutions to prevent future errors. Although some hospitals post information about infection rates and falls, medical errors are rarely discussed publicly or candidly.

The Brigham and Women’s newsletter, however, recounts stories of healthcare gone wrong via interviews with patients and caregivers, and then describes the hospital’s response to improve care and avoid errors in the future. To protect privacy, patients’ real names are not used, nor are healthcare practitioners named because the hospital does not want to discourage staff from reporting issues.

The driving force behind “Safety Matters” is Elizabeth Nabel, MD, the hospital’s chief executive, who, last fall, 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. The newsletter, rather than placing blame, focuses on possible improvements and helps 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. While some hospital administrators were initially concerned that leaving the newsletter in places where patients might see it could potentially scare patients, the consensus is that the transparency about errors and implementation of better safety procedures makes it worthwhile.