Objective: The aim of the study was to analyze the relationships between factors that contribute to healthcare professionals informing and apologizing to a patient after an avoidable adverse event (AAE).
Methods: A secondary study based on the analysis of data collected in a cross-sectional study conducted in 2014 in Spain was performed. Health professionals from hospitals and primary care completed an online survey.
Results: The responses from 1087 front-line healthcare professionals were analyzed. The willingness of the professionals to fully disclose an AAE was greater among those who were backed by their institution (odds ratio [OR] = 72.6, 95% confidence interval [CI] = 37.5-140.3) and who had experience with that type of communication (OR = 2.4, 95% CI = 1.3-4.5). An apology for the patient was more likely when there was institutional support (OR = 31.3, 95% CI = 14.4-68.2), the professional was not aware of lawsuits (OR = 2.7, 95% CI = 1.2-6.1), and attributed most AAE to human error (OR = 2.2, 95% CI = 1.1-4.2). The fear of lawsuits was determined by the lack of support from the center in disclosing AAE (OR = 5.5, 95% CI = 2.8-10.6) and the belief that being open would result in negative consequences (OR = 2.0, 95% CI = 1.1-3.6).
Conclusions: The culture of safety, the experience of blame, and the expectations about the outcome from communicating an AAE to patients affect the frequency of open disclosure. Nurses are more willing than physicians to participate in open disclosure. Health care organizations must act to establish a framework of legal certainty for professionals.