Disclosure of adverse events: a data linkage study reporting patient experiences among Australian adults aged ≥ 45 years

Merrilyn Walton, Reema Harrison*, Jennifer Smith-Merry, Patrick Kelly, Elizabeth Manias, Christine Jorm, Rick Iedema

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)
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Objective. Since Australia initiated national open disclosure standards in 2002, open disclosure policies have been adopted in all Australian states and territories. Yet, research evidence regarding their adoption is limited. The aim of the present study was to determine the frequency with which patients who report an adverse event had information disclosed to them about the incident, including whether they participated in a formal open disclosure process, their experiences of the process and the extent to which these align with the current New South Wales (NSW) policy.

Methods. A cross-sectional survey about patient experiences of disclosure associated with an adverse event was administered to a random sample of 20 000 participants in the 45 and Up Study who were hospitalised in NSW, Australia, between January and June 2014.

Results. Of the 18 993 eligible potential participants, completed surveys were obtained from 7661 (40% response rate), with 474 (7%) patients reporting an adverse event. Of those who reported an adverse event, a significant majority reported an informal or bedside disclosure (91%; 430/474). Only 79 patients (17%) participated in a formal open disclosure meeting. Most informal disclosures were provided by nurses, with only 25% provided by medical practitioners.

Conclusions. Experiences of open disclosure may be enhanced by informing patients of their right to full disclosure in advance of or upon admission to hospital, and recognition of and support for informal or bedside disclosure for appropriate types of incidents. A review of the open disclosure guidelines in relation to the types of adverse events that require formal open disclosure and those more suitable to informal bedside disclosure is indicated. Guidelines for bedside disclosure should be drafted to assist medical practitioners and other health professionals facilitate and improve their communications about adverse events. Alignment of formal disclosure with policy requirements may also be enhanced by training multidisciplinary teams in the process.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)268-275
Number of pages8
JournalAustralian Health Review
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 26 Apr 2018
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Copyright AHHA 2019. Version archived for private and non-commercial use with the permission of the author/s and according to publisher conditions. For further rights please contact the publisher.


  • ethics
  • incident disclosure
  • medical error
  • open disclosure
  • patient satisfaction


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