Responsible Information Delivery and Management


Published: 14 June 2020

A study once found that less than half of hospitalised patients could remember their diagnosis or the names of their medications (IHC 2011).

Additionally, it is estimated that about 50% of patients with chronic illnesses do not take their medication in the way it was prescribed (Kim et al. 2018).

A simple solution for these issues - and others - is the delivery of clear and high-quality information to clients (Ciaglia 2017).

Effectively Communicating Information in Healthcare

Effective communication between staff and clients is an essential component of providing high-quality and safe care (ACSQHC 2016).

As well as improving client outcomes and satisfaction, effective communication is crucial in preventing errors, unnecessary distress and inappropriate interventions (ACSQHC 2016).

Every client has the right to access clear, timely information about the care they are receiving. You may assume the information you provide is easy to comprehend. Yet, 60% of Australians find it difficult to understand complicated healthcare concepts and information (Ciaglia 2017, OHO 2015).

Furthermore, communication issues are the third most common type of complaint received by the Office of the Health Ombudsman (OHO 2015). These communication complaints often include:

  • Poor attitude or manners from staff;
  • Inadequate information;
  • Incorrect or misleading information; and
  • Staff not accommodating the client’s special needs.

(OHO 2015)

This suggests there is significant room for improvement.

The importance of effectively communicating information to clients is outlined in several of the Aged Care Quality Standards, which apply to all government-funded aged care services: Standard 1: Consumer Dignity and Choice, Standard 2: Ongoing Assessment and Planning with Consumers, Standard 3: Personal Care and Clinical Care and Standard 6: Feedback and Complaints.

responsible information delivery nurse showing document
60% of Australians find it difficult to understand complicated healthcare concepts and information.

What do Clients Need to Know?

You should clearly communicate the following information to clients:

  • Their diagnosis and what it means;
  • Costs;
  • Treatment options available;
  • Medications (including what they do, dosages and how to use them);
  • Services available to them;
  • Referrals to other health services;
  • Health literature and education opportunities;
  • How to access their own health information (e.g. care plans, test results);
  • Their rights; and
  • A discharge plan that includes:
    • Actions the client needs to take towards their health;
    • A treatment plan and medication list;
    • Any future tests or appointments that are needed;
    • Information that needs to be discussed with the client’s GP;
    • What the client should expect at their next place of care (if being transferred); and
    • Warning symptoms and signs to look out for, and what to do if they occur.

(OHO 2015; ACSQHC 2016)

How to Effectively Communicate Information to Clients

The ACSQHC lists the following as the essential components of effectively exchanging information with clients:

  1. Fostering relationships;
  2. Two-way exchange of information;
  3. Conveying empathy;
  4. Engaging clients in decision-making and care planning; and
  5. Managing uncertainty and complexity.

(ACSQHC 2016)

Read: Communication Skills

Issues Caused by Unclear Information

If clients are not provided with adequate access to clear information, there may be implications such as:

  • Misdiagnosis;
  • Inappropriate treatments;
  • Poor health outcomes;
  • Hospital sentinel events;
  • Client complaints;
  • Adverse drug events;
  • Readmission;
  • Decreased quality of care; and
  • Delayed treatment.

(ACQSHC n.d.)

Clients Who are at Higher Risk of Harm

The following clients are at an increased risk of harm if presented with unclear or complicated information:

  • First Nations people;
  • Older adults;
  • People with a disability;
  • People who are homeless;
  • People who are culturally or linguistically diverse;
  • People with a mental illness;
  • People undergoing surgery;
  • Children;
  • People receiving palliative care;
  • People in intensive care units; and
  • People with several co-morbidities.

(ACQSHC n.d.)

It is imperative that these clients are provided with information that matches their level of understanding, and that it is communicated in a clear manner.

responsible information delivery confused older woman
Some clients, including older adults, are at an increased risk of harm if presented with unclear or complicated information.

Practical Tips for Conveying Information

  • As identified by the ACSQHC, many clients have a limited understanding of healthcare concepts. Individually gauge each client’s level of understanding and communicate with them accordingly.
  • Do not assume English proficiency or a client’s level of understanding.
  • Speak clearly and slowly.
  • Confirm that clients understand what has been explained to them.
  • Encourage the client to ask questions.
  • Improve your own health literacy skills so that you can communicate with clients more effectively.
  • Ensure the client can demonstrate an understanding of the information provided to them. Consider asking them to repeat it back to you.
  • Ensure an interpreter is available if required.
  • Ask the client about their needs and priorities.
  • Ensure the client is notified if they need any kind of follow-up.
  • Ensure the client is notified about any warning signs to look out for.
  • Describe the roles of each member of the care team.
  • Keep the client informed about their care plan.
  • Keep the client informed about expected timeframes, tests or procedures that need to be performed, why certain decisions are being made etc.
  • Check that the client is willing to follow any plans made.
  • Follow up with the client post-discharge to monitor their progress.

(OHO 2015; Vic DoH 2015; ACSQHC 2016)

Privacy of Client Healthcare Information

Under Australian privacy laws, clients are able to request access to their own health information from a health service provider. This information can only be requested by the client or a person they have authorised. This request may be rejected in some situations, for example, if it would threaten somebody else’s privacy or safety (OAIC 2019).

Healthcare providers are bound by law to maintain the privacy of client health information. Clients must provide consent for this information to be discussed with or passed on to other parties. The information must also be stored in a manner that protects the privacy of clients (Better Health Channel 2015).


All clients should be able to access adequate information about their condition and the services available to them. This must be communicated in a clear, easily-understandable manner so that clients are well-informed and able to exercise autonomy.

responsible information delivery hsppy patient
All clients should be able to access adequate information about their condition and the services available to them.

Additional Resources


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True or false? You should assume English proficiency when communicating with clients.

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