I am now back in Seattle, home from the Telluride Patient Safety Roundtable & Summer Camp. I am very thankful I had the opportunity to participate. It was emotionally exhausting (I cried the first three of the four days), but I have a sense of hope. I met leaders in patient safety—some of whom I had seen in online videos, others I had not heard of. But the message from all of them was clear: There is no compromise in patient safety. No compromise in disclosure. No compromise in informed consent. Safety and transparency must underlie all of healthcare. And that is a very different perspective than my family has encountered in Kansas, at both the local hospital we are dealing with and at the state level. So today I feel hope knowing that my family is not alone, but I also feel overwhelmed knowing that those of us who believe in safety and transparency—and are not willing to back down—face tremendous obstacles. We have to change systems that would rather employ short-term thinking (don’t tell the patient or family what happened; blame the nurse for the error the system set her up to make) rather than long-term thinking (let’s uphold the patient’s right to know what has happened to his or her body; let’s talk about harm incidents with everyone involved and hold ourselves accountable for delivering safe care—whether that means improvements in our system or our communication or our training).
I know I am not the only one who feels overwhelmed. I am sure that the residents feel this too. They came to Telluride with an interest in patient safety and knowing that improvements need to be made. And now they have heard the stories of several patients and families affected by medical harm. They have met a group of patient safety experts for whom compromising patient safety and transparency is not an option. They have seen that the healthcare system is even further away from patient-centered care than they realized. But they also learned a bit about what it takes to deliver better healthcare: they learned about teamwork, negotiations, and listening to patients. And now it is their responsibility to do something within their departments to begin to make change.