Even though medical harm is prevalent nationwide, experts and advocates struggle to increase awareness about patient safety risks and spark support for effective solutions. The Betsy Lehman Center partnered with FrameWorks Institute to change how people think and talk about this important public health issue.

Key takeaways

Experts and the public think differently about patient safety. There is a noticeable gap between experts and the general public, as well as many health care professionals, about the challenges and solutions to the problem of medical error across the country.

Commonly-held assumptions stand in the way. People have difficulty understanding patient safety challenges because of the way they think about medicine — including human error, the role of systems in health outcomes and decision-making. 

When communicating about patient safety, organizations and advocates need to:

  • Explicitly define terms like 'patient safety' and 'medical errors.'
  • Connect the dots between causes of errors and solutions.
  • Explain rather than assert the prevalence of medical errors.
  • Adopt a constructive rather than a crisis tone.
  • Include the whole picture, rather than zooming in on one cause or solution
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How to Talk about Patient Safety

This 'MessageMemo' outlines the hows and whys of communicating effectively about safety

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In the news

Read the Patient Safety Beat article

Listen to the WIHI 'radio talk show' podcast from IHI

Nurses and doctors gather around a tablet and laptop

Safety is More than Caring

Exploring the gaps between what we know about patient safety and what non-experts understand

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Public Discourse on Safety

A 'deep dive' into the messages people currently hear about patient safety from the media and the safety community

Frame Works Ted Talks Vid Screen Shot

TEDx Talk: How words change minds

FrameWorks Institutes’ methods for improving communication about complex topics are unique and effective. CEO Nat Kendall-Taylor explains.

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