The Health Care Safety Hotline project yielded lessons about how the details of a website can influence participation and the quality of information submitted, says Jeffrey Brady, MD, MPH, rear admiral in the U.S. Public Health Service, and director of AHRQ’s Center for Quality Improvement and Patient Safety.
“This was a work in progress, and the researchers were always on the lookout for ways to improve the hotline and make it more user friendly,” he says. “The website and the marketing materials were changed as they identified issues, often very small things, that could be changed to make the hotline more effective and more efficient.”
These were some of the lessons learned and improvements made:
- Minimize the use of words like “safety” and “error” because they can suggest that you are only interested in serious adverse events. Using words like “concern” will encourage users to submit a wider range of issues.
- The hospitals moved from providing the brochure at admission to day two of the hospitalization because patients often are too stressed to read everything in the packet when admitted. For the same reason, the hospitals started including promotional material in discharge packets because patients may reflect on the experience after discharge and decide to report a concern.
- Remind patients about the hotline in follow-up calls a few days after discharge.
- Avoid the term “investigator,” as in “an investigator will look into your concern,” because users may think you mean a government investigator.
- Emphasize that people can report anonymously.
- Clarify that reporting a concern will not result in any sort of retaliation against the person reporting.
- Stress that the purpose of the hotline is to prevent future safety issues and the report will not get clinicians or other staff in trouble.
- Make it clear that family members and other caregivers can use the hotline.