• Study
  • Published August 2011

More than words: patients' views on apology and disclosure when things go wrong in cancer care.

The art and science of error disclosure continues to generate significant attention as health care organizations and their providers increase efforts to communicate with patients following an adverse event. These efforts have included implementation of formal disclosure policies, such as Harvard's When Things Go Wrong, emphasizing the importance of sharing information about the event and providing an empathetic apology to patients. This study conducted in-depth interviews with patients who believed an error occurred in their cancer-related care and found that provider responses continue to fall short of expectations. Specifically, while patients appreciated expressions of remorse, empathy and caring, acknowledgment of responsibility, and efforts to prevent recurrences, these elements were often missing. Patients reported that actions (more than words) and evidence of clinician learning were most important. A past AHRQ WebM&M conversation and perspective discussed many facets of error disclosure.

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