The Dirty Truth: Spread the Word, not the Germ

If your hospital had a blog, would you read it? More importantly, would you expect to see information that every patient deserves – such as hospital infection rates or harmful medical errors happening there?

Former hospital President, CEO and blogger, Nick Jacobs, had an interesting quote about hospital blogging published in HealthLeaders Media recently. When rumor hit that his hospital would split with a then-affiliate, Jacobs wrote a series of blog posts that he says “became the total source of very carefully worded encouragement throughout the process.”

"It helped to keep [readers] engaged, and, most importantly, it helped to calm the nerves of those individuals who perceived that they were at risk.”
Blogging hospitals should blog about what counts to their patients too, such as medical harm. With more media coverage of hospital infections and medical errors like the Dead by Mistake series that appeared in papers across the country, it’s reasonable that we’d want to know more about our hospital’s efforts to prevent unsafe care.

Paul Levy, President and CEO of a Boston hospital blogged about reduced central line bloodstream infections in his hospital’s ICUs over a period of four months and compared it to the hospital’s infection rates in 2006 during the same four-month period, which were much higher. Overall, his frankness was well-received by readers. Levy wrote:

Our collective failure to approach this problem using well established methods of process improvement -- including publication of current performance results -- represents a moral and ethical lapse by the clinical and administrative leadership of the medical establishment in this city. Why? Simply put, a profession that takes an oath to do no harm is, by inaction or incomplete action, doing harm. We are causing people to die who should not die. What would we call that if we saw it happening in other sectors of society?
A blog can serve as a good space for hospitals to openly raise medical harm realities that affect us as patients. If hospitals are making progress, they should be able to tell us about them. If they are lagging, we deserve an honest explanation and an opportunity to voice our suggestions for improvement.