Key messages

  • The open disclosure process should occur whenever a patient has suffered an adverse event.
  • Open disclosure includes an apology and explanation of an incident, without apportioning blame.
  • Patients are to be provided with information about what happened in a timely, open and honest manner.
  • Health services should ensure staff members are supported through the open disclosure process.

The Australian open disclosure framework developed by the Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care outlines the key principles of open disclosure.

It provides a nationally consistent basis for communication following a healthcare incident or adverse event.

The framework specifies:

  • Open and timely communication - a patient is to be provided with information about what happened in an open and honest manner at all times, which may involve the provision of ongoing information.
  • Acknowledgment - health services are to acknowledge when an adverse event has occurred as soon as practicable, and to initiate the open disclosure process.
  • Apology or expression of regret - a patient is to receive an apology or expression of regret for any harm that resulted from an adverse event as early as possible.
  • Recognition of reasonable expectations - a patient may reasonably expect to be fully informed of the facts surrounding an adverse event and its consequences, treated with empathy, respect and consideration and provided with support in a manner appropriate to the patient’s needs.
  • Staff support - health services are to create an environment in which all staff are able and encouraged to recognise and report adverse events, and are supported through the open disclosure process.
  • Integrated risk management and systems improvement - investigation of adverse events and outcomes are to be conducted through processes that integrate a focus on risk management and on improving systems of care and reviewing their effectiveness.
  • Good governance - a system of accountability must be in place (through the health service’s chief executive officer or governing body) to implement clinical risk and quality improvement processes that prevent the recurrence of adverse events, and to ensure changes are reviewed for their effectiveness.
  • Confidentiality - health services are to develop policies and procedures with full consideration of consumer and staff privacy and confidentiality, and in compliance with relevant law, including Commonwealth and state or territory privacy
and health records legislation.

Contact details

  • Quality and Safety Branch

    Department of Health & Human Services

    Postal address: GPO Box 4541, Melbourne VIC 3001

    • Telephone Number:+61 3 9096 7258