The paradox of transparency in healthcare

By Peter van der Voort | May 12, 2016 | 1 min read

The media have put hospital care on the rack. Managers and medical specialists are being rigorously assessed, and managers a little more rigorously than medical specialists. Together they are responsible for proper healthcare, well-balanced.

Imbalance is only evident if errors are made and it becomes the focus of media attention. Then transparency is called for, because after all substandard healthcare then becomes visible and recognizable. 

Transparency of results provides patients with insights enabling them to make a focused choice. Excellent! Honesty and openness by healthcare providers about errors and calamities: also excellent.

My doubts begin when the media condemn managers and healthcare providers. Of course they are right that abuses must be exposed. Society has a right to know what is going on. And it is evident that public attention for abuse leads to improvements. The other side of the coin is that repeated extensive coverage of calamities undermines confidence in healthcare. The paradox here is that such transparency does not increase confidence in the short term. 

Blaming and shaming

Whether such blaming and shaming increases confidence in the long term has, according to me, never been scientifically investigated. Let it be clear that I am a great proponent of transparency. Transparency of results and errors by healthcare providers and managers will increase the intentions and integrity of these institutions. Besides expertise, intentions and integrity are after all important "drivers" of confidence.

However, transparency via investigative journalism due to scandals leads to loss of confidence. The good news is that, according to the existing literature about confidence, healthcare providers can probably prevent this by proactively communicating and being transparent themselves.  

Executive Master of Health Administration

Peter van de VoortProf. Dr. Peter van der Voort is Academic Director of the TIAS Executive Master of Health Administration. This part-time program handles current themes in health care and provides participants with the right knowledge and skills to respond in a strategic way. With twelve months of lectures you will develop into a modern health care manager and strategist.

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