Talk to doctors better, AMA tells states

Dr Tony Bartone at his day job

The Australian Medical Association (AMA) has written to all state and territory health departments urging them to use new guidelines it has developed to communicate better with the health profession.

The AMA says the Guide will inform the development of policy and improve the standards of care being provided to patients. It has also been distributed to all major operators of private hospitals.

The Guide, with the snappy title ‘10 Minimum Standards for Communicating between Health Services and General Practitioners and other Treating Doctors’, has been adapted from an AMA Victoria document. AMA Vice President Dr Tony Bartone says the Guide provides key criteria for communication that can improve quality of care for patients, and also reduce duplication and waste in the health system.

“The Guide encourages all health care providers and institutions to share the responsibility for improved communication across the whole patient journey from the community setting to treatment in a hospital or healthcare facility and return to the community,” Dr Bartone said.

“That includes the clinical handover back to the patient’s general practitioner. Improving the communication between all the different providers in the health system can help to reduce re-admissions and minimise adverse events.

“More effective communication delivers improvements in satisfaction and experience for patients, carers, families, doctors, and other health practitioners.”

Dr Bartone, himself a GP, said the development of the AMA Guide was led by GPs, who are often frustrated by the lack of timely information or inadequate information about their patient’s progress in the health system.

“GPs are the key coordinators of patient care, monitoring and managing their care and treatment. Any disruption to clear communication channels can have an adverse effect on patients,” he said.

“We are delivering very good outcomes for patients in the Australian health system, but we can and should do better. We are confident that the AMA Guide will contribute to improved communication and, in turn, better overall care.”

The AMA Guide covers vital criteria such as the timeliness of communication and its content; communication processes; the interface with practice software systems; good quality referrals, better discharge processes, and secure electronic communication systems.

The Guide can be downloaded here.

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