The Most Difficult Conversations in Health Care


Health care providers choose medicine because we want to help people get better, but sometimes, we make them worse. Complications and injuries happen as a result of the disease or a natural consequence of treatment, and occasionally, as a result of a medical error. As providers, realizing that we’ve made a mistake that has caused harm to our patient and their loved ones is devastating.

We know that to preserve trust, we must have open, honest, timely conversations with patients and their families about what happened, but those conversations can be incredibly hard, because care providers, after all, are only human.

At Brigham Health, we have a long-standing commitment to transparency and have supported staff in having these difficult conversations. We still face challenges, but remain dedicated to taking steps to proactively bridge the gap of trust that may occur after a medical error, which is why we have joined the Massachusetts Alliance for Communication and Resolution following Medical Injury (MACRMI). The alliance consists of patient advocacy groups, teaching hospitals, medical liability insurers and statewide provider organizations committed to providing transparent communication, sincere apologies and fair resolution in cases of medical harm resulting from care that is not up to standards.

Communicating openly with patients about mistakes, apologizing and coming to a resolution is the right thing to do, and we are committed to doing it, even when it is difficult.