Communication pathways in community aged care: an Australian study

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Abstract

Background

Health and social care practitioners collaborate in discharge planning for older people. Difficulties securing timely and quality discharge information and unclear role boundaries can be challenging. There are limited reports in the literature describing community-based practitioners' roles communicating client information.

Aim

To describe the roles of community-based practitioners in communication of older clients' information in an Australian context.

Design

A descriptive and exploratory qualitative research design was applied.

Methods

Four focus groups were conducted in 2009 with a small sample (n = 16) of district nurses, practice nurses and aged care case managers.

Results

All participants described communication as a core characteristic of their role focused on minimising risks for older people. Participants valued dialogue with other health and social care providers in real time with an emphasis on telephone communication, face-to-face meetings, and case conferences. Telephone communication was considered important where there was an urgent need to problem solve. Written communication was noted as less effective.

Conclusions

There is an increasing need for stronger models of communication in community-based settings to facilitate safe, efficient and sustainable health and social outcomes for older people.

Implications for practice

There is limited available research with this focus to guide practice. Findings from this exploratory study indicate a number of important areas for further research: (i) to understand how communication feedback systems and pathways between community and inpatient providers could improve information exchange and (ii) to describe community nurses' roles in communication and medication risks for older people.

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