The Culture of Healthcare Secrecy Harms Patients

Tom Emerick

Tom Emerick

“The culture of health-care secrecy harms patients” reads the headline of an editorial in the Seattle Times.  The author is Kathleen Bartholomew, a consultant and co-author of the book, “Charting the Course: Launching Patient-Centric Healthcare”.  

Kathleen writes, “Despite nearly universal effort and education, there has been little improvement in patient safety since the Institute of Medicine’s 1999 report ‘To Err is Human.’ More than 22 patients still die every hour in our hospitals from medical mistakes and unnecessary infections that absolutely could have been prevented. The details of most lethal mistakes will never make headlines.


“It wasn’t fair that as a nurse I had inside information that the general public could not access. I knew which surgeon had the highest infection rates, and which one had the most complications. I knew the healing power of caring relationships and witnessed significant differences in bedside manner firsthand. I received incident reports when a doctor delayed returning a page in the middle of the night, or when a nurse failed to catch a deteriorating condition.

I knew. We all did. But no one outside the hospital did.”


Bartholomew describes a culture of secrecy that pervades hospitals, one that is harmful to patients.  The culture she describes is  “…designed primarily for self-protection and not patient safety.”  Click here to read the full article.

Nurses in hospitals know the doctors who make the most mistakes and the ones most likely to harm patients, however, “Such knowledge is top secret.”  A huge problem is the inability to differentiate between honest human errors and negligence.

Part of the solution is for all of us to demand transparency at all levels.

That is exactly what Medical Miscreants is all about. Go to and make it a point to know your local hospital’s grade. You wouldn’t go to an “F”-rated restaurant. Treat your life with the same care you give when you order a hamburger.

Meanwhile, those of us on the inside will continue to share the dangers we see firsthand everyday.

Have a terrific weekend, readers.

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Tom Emerick is the President of Emerick Consulting, LLC, and Partner and Chief Strategy Officer with Laurus Strategies, a Chicago-based consulting firm. We thank him for his contributions on this critically important subject.

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