Good communication skills are essential to delivering person-centred care.
By communicating effectively with patients we can find out what matters to them and tailor care to meet their needs and wishes.
Communication is a ‘procedure’ in good clinical care1 that we can use to improve our patients’ experience and their participation in care. This will help minimise their risks of functional decline in hospital.
Like wound care or surgical procedures, we need to learn and practise good clinical communication skills.1
Every interaction we have with our patients, their family and carers, and our colleagues requires us to draw on our communication skills. This includes screening, assessing, developing and delivering intervention and discharge plans, and providing safe and effective clinical handover.
This topic gives an overview of communication and recommends actions that we and our organisations can take, in addition to health service policy and procedures, to communicate effectively with our older patients.
1. J. Philips, 'Communicating with Patients', (Melbourne: Centre for Palliative Care, 2014).
Communication is a skill we use to reassure patients, develop a partnership and encourage them to participate in their care.
Communication and ageing
We can use our communication skills to assess what is affecting an older patient’s ability to receive or give information and to show that we care.
Effective communication is about building a relationship and sharing information and decision-making.
Communicating with older people who have diverse needs
Older people with specific communication needs have an increased risk of experiencing functional decline in hospital.
Communicating with team members
Communicating with team members requires us to use clinical communication skills.
Communicating and discharge planning
Discharge summaries should be clear and complete and promote continuity and quality of care in the community.
Further information - communication
Educational and information resources available on improving our communication with older people in hospital.
All public and private hospitals are required to be accredited to the Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Healthcare’s (ACSQHC) National Safety and Quality Health Service (NSQHS) Standards. The primary aims of the standards are to protect the public from harm and to improve the quality of health service provision. Assessment to the second edition of the NSQHS Standards commenced in January 2019. The second edition comprises eight standards that provide a nationally consistent statement about the level of care consumers can expect from health services.
The Comprehensive Care Standard (Standard 5) aims to ensure that patients receive comprehensive health care that meets their individual needs, and considers the impact of their health issues on their life and wellbeing. It also aims to ensure that risks of harm for patients during health care are prevented and managed through targeted strategies. These include integrating patient care processes to identify patient needs and identifying actions related to falls, pressure injuries, nutrition, mental health, cognitive impairment and end-of-life care.
Information is presented in the Older People in Hospital learning topics that complements Standard 5 and other NSQHS Standards including the; Partnering with Consumers Standard (Standard 2), Medication Safety Standard (Standard 4), Communicating for Safety Standard (Standard 6) and Recognising and Responding to Acute Deterioration (Standard 8).
Reviewed 05 October 2015