Improving patient safety at SMHS through openness and empathy

A woman places a hand on the shoulder of an older woman while another man looks on.

An important part of how SMHS improves the way clinical incidents are managed is by being open about what happened. The process of communicating with a patient, their family, carers and other support persons, when things haven’t gone to plan, is called open disclosure.

Open disclosure is a key component of the effective and respectful management of clinical incidents in SMHS. Read more about clinical incident management at SMHS and the Severity Assessment Code (SAC) categories

The principles of open disclosure enable staff to communicate in an open, empathetic and timely manner to patients, their family and carers, who may have experienced a clinical incident during healthcare.

Open disclosure can:

  • improve patient safety through improved understanding of how things didn’t go to plan
  • help us to learn from what contributed or caused a clinical incident and to prevent it happening in the future
  • increase trust between patients and healthcare providers
  • assist patients to become more active partners in their care
For more information on Open Disclosure please refer to the Australian Open Disclosure Framework (external site) and the WA Health Open Disclosure Policy. This policy is supported by a WA Toolkit which contains resources to guide and support staff to undertake open disclosure in line with evidence-based best practice, the development of which was led by SMHS Safety, Quality & Consumer Engagement.
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South Metropolitan Health Service