Improving clinician-carer communication for safer hospital care: A study of the 'TOP 5' strategy in patients with dementia

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Journal Article
International Journal for Quality in Health Care, 2015, 27 (3), pp. 175 - 182
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© The Author 2015. Objective: To examine the impact of implementing a clinician-carer communication tool for hospitalized patients with dementia. Design: Surveys were conducted with clinicians and carers about perceptions and experiences. Implementation process and costs were explored through surveys of local staff. Time series analysis was conducted on incident-reported falls, usage of non-regular anti-psychotics and one-to-one nursing. Setting: Twenty-one hospitals in Australia. Participants: Surveyswere returned by 798 clinicians, 240 carers and 21 local liaison staff involved in implementation. Intervention: Implementation of a communication tool over 12 months. Main outcome measures: The process of implementation was documented. Outcome measures included clinician and carer perceptions, safety indicators (incident-reported falls and usage of non-regular anti-psychotics), resource use and costs. Results: Clinicians and carers reported high levels of acceptability and perceived benefits for patients. Clinicians rated confidence in caring for patients with dementia as being significantly higher after the introduction of TOP 5, (M= 2.93, SD= 0.65), than prior to TOP 5 (M= 2.74, SD = 0.75); F(1,712) = 11.21, P < 0.05. When analysed together, there was no change in incident-reported falls across all hospitals. At one hospital with a matched control ward, an average of 6.85 fewer falls incidents per month occurred in the intervention ward compared with the matched control ward (B = -6.85, P < 0.05). Conclusions: Our findings indicate that the use of a simple, low-cost communication strategy for patient care is associated with improvements in clinician and carer experience with potential implications for patient safety. Minimally, TOP 5 represents 'good practice' with a low risk of harm for patients.
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