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Sociol Health Illn. 2009 Mar;31(2):262-77. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-9566.2008.01131.x. Epub 2008 Oct 2.

Practising Open Disclosure: clinical incident communication and systems improvement.

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Arts and Social Sciences, University of Technology, Sydney, Australia.


This article explores the way that professionals are being inducted into articulating apologies to consumers of their services, in this case clinicians apologising to patients. The article focuses on the policy of Open Disclosure that is being adopted by health care organisations in the US, Canada, the UK and Australia and other nations. Open Disclosure policy mandates 'open discussion of clinical incidents' with patient victims. In Australia, Open Disclosure policy implementation is currently being complemented by intensive staff training, involving simulation of apology scenarios with actor-patients. The article presents an analysis of data collected from such training sessions. The analysis shows how simulated apologising engages frontline staff in evaluating the efficacy of their disclosures, and how staff may thereby be inducted into reconciling their affective and reflexive sensibilities with their organisational and professional responsibilities, and thereby produce the required organisational apology. The article concludes that Open Disclosure, besides potentially relaxing tensions between clinicians and consumers, may also affect how staff experience and enact their role in the overall system of health care organisation.

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