Sample disclosure policy

Many organizations, physicians, and insurance companies advocate candid disclosure because it helps providers learn from their mistakes and empowers patients to make decisions based on complete information. When a hospital decides to set a disclosure policy, it must guide its staff on how to inform patients about errors.

Disclosure isn’t a new idea, and many physicians on your medical staff may be comfortable with it. It’s helpful that many hospitals have risk managers who impress upon physicians that they should do the right thing under these circumstances. In speaking with physicians, it is useful to tie disclosure into informed consent conceptually, because they’re accustomed to informed consent. But it’s not easy to convince some physicians to cooperate. By nature, many physicians are afraid of disclosure because they fear punishment and embarrassment.

How can you persuade physicians to follow your disclosure policy? First, make sure that all your physicians have a copy of the policy and have been trained on its content and application. Present it as a patient safety policy so that it’s difficult for physicians to reject it. Also, assure physicians that the hospital will support them. Disclosure isn’t about blame, and physicians should understand that. Another option is to give physicians copies of articles about research studies indicating that disclosure actually reduces liability. Professional liability insurance carriers are excellent sources for such information. The following is a sample disclosure policy.

Note: This form is excerpted from The Medical Staff Leader's Practical Guide: Survival Tips for Navigating Your Leadership Role.