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Clinician Fact Sheet: Communicating for Safety

Effective communication is critical to the delivery of safe patient care and a major contributing factor in sentinel events.1 Communication failures, and inadequate or poor documentation of clinical information can result in errors, misdiagnosis, inappropriate treatment and poor care outcomes.2-7

The Communicating for Safety Standard recognises that communication is critical throughout a patient’s care, not just when care is handed over between healthcare personnel or areas.  The three high-risk situations which the Standard focuses on are when:

  • Patient identification and procedure matching should occur
  • All or part of a patient’s care is transferred
  • Critical information or risks emerge or change during an episode of care.

Tasks for clinicians

You can help your health service organisation to implement the Communicating for Safety Standard by facilitating effective communication through the following tasks. These tasks are arranged by criterion for each Standard.
Last updated 4th June, 2018 at 11:15pm

Office of Quality and Patient Safety (US). Sentinel event data: root causes by event type 2004–2015. Oakbrook Terrace (IL): The Joint Commission; 2016.

Leonard M, Graham S, Bonacum D. The human factor: the critical importance of effective teamwork and communication in providing safe care. Qual Saf Health Care 2004;13(Suppl 1):i85–90.

Mitchell P, Wynia M, Golden R, McNellis B, Okun S, Webb CE, et al. Core principles and values of effective team-based health care. Discussion paper. Washington (DC): Institute of Medicine; 2012.

Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care. OSSIE guide to clinical handover improvement. Sydney: ACSQHC; 2010.

National Academies of Sciences Engineering and Medicine. Improving diagnosis in health care. Washington (DC): Institute of Medicine; 2015.

Naylor MD. Transitional care of older adults. Ann Rev Nurs Res 2002;20(1):127–47.

Jorm CM, White S, Kaneen T. Clinical handover: critical communications. Med J Aust 2009;190(11):108–9.