Patients and families as teachers: a mixed methods assessment of a collaborative learning model for medical error disclosure and prevention

Aug 01, 2016 | T. Langer, W. Martinez, D. M. Browning, P. Varrin, B. Sarnoff Lee and S. K. Bell

BACKGROUND: Despite growing interest in engaging patients and families (P/F) in patient safety education, little is known about how P/F can best contribute. We assessed the feasibility and acceptability of a patient-teacher medical error disclosure and prevention training model. 

METHODS: We developed an educational intervention bringing together interprofessional clinicians with P/F from hospital advisory councils to discuss error disclosure and prevention. Patient focus groups and orientation sessions informed curriculum and assessment design. A pre-post survey with qualitative and quantitative questions was used to assess P/F and clinician experiences and attitudes about collaborative safety education including participant hopes, fears, perceived value of learning experience and challenges. Responses to open-ended questions were coded according to principles of content analysis.

RESULTS: P/F and clinicians hoped to learn about each other’s perspectives, communication skills and patient empowerment strategies. Before the intervention, both groups worried about power dynamics dampening effective interaction. Clinicians worried that P/F would learn about their fallibility, while P/F were concerned about clinicians’ jargon and defensive posturing. Following workshops, clinicians valued patients’ direct feedback, communication strategies for error disclosure and a ‘real’ learning experience. P/F appreciated clinicians’ accountability, and insights into how medical errors affect clinicians. Half of participants found nothing challenging, the remainder clinicians cited emotions and enormity of ‘culture change’, while P/F commented on medical jargon and desire for more time. Patients and clinicians found the experience valuable. Recommendations about how to develop a patient-teacher programme in patient safety are provided.

CONCLUSIONS: An educational paradigm that includes patients as teachers and collaborative learners with clinicians in patient safety is feasible, valued by clinicians and P/F and promising for P/F-centred medical error disclosure and prevention training.

PubMed Abstract

Langer T, Martinez W, Browning DM, Varrin P, Sarnoff Lee B, Bell SK. Patients and families as teachers: a mixed methods assessment of a collaborative learning model for medical error disclosure and prevention. BMJ quality & safety. 2016;25(8):615-625.