Safety and quality in clinical communication

Ralph, Nicholas ORCID: and Moloney, Clint ORCID: (2015) Safety and quality in clinical communication. In: Professional and therapeutic communication. Oxford University Press, South Melbourne, Australia, pp. 173-194. ISBN 9780195591064


Safety and quality should define the characteristics and impact of communication in the healthcare environment. Although safety and quality may be seen as interchangeable terms, there is broad evidence in the literature of a general intent to improve communication in modern healthcare to a level of quality beyond a minimum standard of safety (Beckett & Kipnis 2009; Hohenhaus et al. 2006). The notion of quality in communication stems from proactive approaches to recognised or perceived risks, rather than reactions to failures. While safety is the primary objective, the inherent risk attached to human-oriented systems usually results in the introduction of fail-safe mechanisms. These fail-safe mechanisms elevate the quality of systems to a level in which the risks and impacts of failure are actively or passively mitigated or prevented.

Beyond healthcare, many other sectors have worked to embed safety and quality in ways that improve the quality of communication, and further reduce the presence of risks and the occurrence of failures. Aviation is one industry that has established exacting standards of quality in communication, introducing, sterile cockpit situations to ensure that only relevant communication occurred during critical periods of flying (Pape 2003). Similarly in healthcare, the introduction of standardised models of communication (communication mnemonics, surgical checklists) has worked to reduce human error and improve the flow of information to enhance patient outcomes (Beckett & Kipnis 2009).

Structured models of communication can still be implemented in ways that reflect a caring and compassionate quality, while still ensuring patient safety. In this chapter, we explore the notion of safety as the principle focus and purpose of clinical community. We define the concept of quality in communication, address the need to ensure a humanistic approach to communication is used, and detail recognised strategies in communication that enhance the quality of processes and outcomes in the healthcare environment.

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Item Type: Book Chapter (Commonwealth Reporting Category B)
Refereed: Yes
Item Status: Live Archive
Additional Information: Permanent restricted access to Published version, in accordance with the copyright policy of the publisher. Print copy not held in the USQ Library.
Faculty/School / Institute/Centre: Current - Faculty of Health, Engineering and Sciences - School of Nursing and Midwifery (1 Jan 2015 -)
Faculty/School / Institute/Centre: Current - Faculty of Health, Engineering and Sciences - School of Nursing and Midwifery (1 Jan 2015 -)
Date Deposited: 01 Mar 2016 02:51
Last Modified: 23 Aug 2017 04:35
Uncontrolled Keywords: safety; quality; communication; healthcare
Fields of Research (2008): 11 Medical and Health Sciences > 1110 Nursing > 111099 Nursing not elsewhere classified
Socio-Economic Objectives (2008): C Society > 92 Health > 9299 Other Health > 929999 Health not elsewhere classified

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