Communication is the Key to Ensure Good Infection Prevention Outcomes

By Petrina Smith
Friday, 12 December, 2014

Simple, quality communication with patients is the key to ensuring infection prevention and control outcomes are improved.
This is the message presented by Australasian College for Infection Prevention and Control (ACIPC) Board Member Mary Potter at the college's recent conference.
“The educated patient actually expands your health team. Inform them properly and you can protect their health and prevent the transmission of infections to and from the community,” said Ms Potter.
“Continual education on this prevention must become part of the normal work flow, and must not be compromised because of time and paperwork pressures.”
Strategies to successfully educate patients in infection control involve ensuring quality, meaningful communication exchange using tools that are appropriate for the individual. All moments of patient contact should be seen as opportunities to inform patients, throughout their journey in the health care system.
The quality of communication remains key. When trying to impart information, body language (with a focus on eye contact), the complexity of language used and the health literacy of the patient (in particular the elderly, CALD or socially disadvantaged) should all be considered.
“As an integral part of the health team, the patient must understand what THEY can do to get the best possible outcome,” said Ms Potter. “Speak to them. But do so in a way that has meaning. Don’t just rattle off some sentences using jargon they won’t understand or deposit a leaflet in their lap that they won’t read. You have to listen, hear, understand, respond, repeat. Then you’ll see the “Time can actually be saved by engaging in proper communications,” she added.
Infection control and prevention staff also have a role to play in educating staff at every level: Not just how they should incorporate infection prevention into their everyday work but also the challenge of talking to patients in the course of that work, said Potter. Routine tasks such as making the bed or cleaning the room should all be seen as opportunities to talk to patients about what they can do to minimise their risk of infection.
New technology, such as the use of ipads at preadmission, provide other information sharing opportunities.
Strategies to communicate with consumers outside of the hospital system should also “Infection prevention is of concern to every man woman and child in Australia, whether they realise it or not. As infection prevention and control staff, you have a responsibility to educate your workforce and, at the same time, use all means to educate the patient. But you also need to get the message out to the community.
"The best initiative, first, second and third, is direct communication. We can never be too busy for this,” she said.

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