Safe Communication in Healthcare: A Podium Discussion with Sir Liam Donaldson


Institutional Communication Service

2 May 2018

Patient safety events cause great suffering for patients and their families, as well as significant costs for the healthcare system. Each year, 43 million patients are harmed by adverse events. Of these, half could be avoided, mostly via safer interpersonal communication. On Tuesday, May 15, at 6PM in the USI campus Aula magna, the USI Faculty of Communication Sciences will be hosting a panel discussion on this important topic, organized by Professor Annegret Hannawa and moderated by Sir Liam Donaldson, founder and director of the WHO (World Health Organization) World Alliance for Patient Safety. 


What is the situation in Switzerland?

Unfortunately, not better than in the rest of the world: The Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH) announced that "one in ten patients at Swiss hospitals suffers physical harm and about half of these cases could be avoided". In figures, this means that each year, 2’000-3’000 Swiss patients die and about 60’000 are harmed by preventable adverse events. This equates to about 4 deaths at Swiss hospitals every day that could be avoided, primarily through safer interpersonal communication between physicians, nurses, patients and care companions.


Medication safety

Medication errors play a particularly important role in this context. For this reason, the WHO has formalized a global challenge: By 2022, the number of medication errors ought to be cut in half across the globe. The podium discussion on May 15 will also focus on this challenge. The invited experts will discuss how safer interpersonal communication can be the vehicle to ensuring safer medication.


What will be done?

Prof. Annegret Hannawa is an internationally renowned ambassador for patient safety and directs the Centre for the Advancement of Healthcare Quality and Patient Safety (CAHQS) at Università della Svizzera italiana (USI). For the first time at the USI Lugano campus, all stakeholders of the healthcare system – a politician, physician, nurse, pharmacologist, and patient victim – will convene on stage to discuss the role of safe interpersonal communication in the context of safer healthcare provision. Sir Liam Donaldson, the global pioneer of patient safety and Director of the WHO World Alliance for Patient Safety, will moderate this discussion of high-profile experts from Switzerland and abroad. The objective is to identify concrete solutions for all involved stakeholders to implement immediately in their daily healthcare encounters.


The following panelists will represent the stakeholder perspectives:

James Titcombe, father of Joshua. His son died 9 days after his birth due to a medical error at the treating hospital. James Titcombe will speak from the perspective of the patient victim and, at the same time, as a patient safety specialist (his profession).                                                                              

Dr. med. Yvonne Gilli, politician and executive board member of the FMH (Swiss Medical Association), the professional association of Swiss physicians. She will take part in the discussion in her role as FMH Head of digitalization / eHealth in Switzerland.

Yvonne Willems Cavalli, Head of nursing and member of the executive board of the EOC (Ente Ospedaliero Cantonale, Cantonal Hospital Agency). She will represent the perspective of nursing on the panel.

Dr. med. Kai Schnabel, Head of Department for Education and Media at University of Bern's Institute of Medical Education, will represent the national group mandated by the Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH) to be responsible for the federal examination and licensure of medical students in Switzerland.

Prof. Annegret Hannawa, Director of CAHQS at the Faculty of Communication Sciences, Università della Svizzera italiana (USI), Lugano. She has developed the “safe communication” model named "SACCIA" and will represent the communication science perspective on the panel.

Dr. med. Marco Egbring, Vice-principal pharmacologist at the university hospital of Zurich (USZ). His specialization lies in the role of digitalization in medication safety.

Moderator: Sir Liam Donaldson, founding father and director of the WHO's World Alliance for Patient Safety. He was knighted by the Queen of the United Kingdom for his contributions to the British healthcare system and has served as Chief Medical Officer for England.

The objective of the podium discussion is to identify ways in which patient safety can be repositioned into the heart of Swiss healthcare provision. Patients, care companions, nurses, physicians, pharmacologists and decision-makers are invited to attend and participate in the discussion.


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