Below is a description of the ways in which an Aboriginal community controlled health service can ensure it provides the right information to its patients to enable them to access care. Not all of these good practices are required by the Standards, but they illustrate the many practical and creative things that ACCHSs can do to ensure they deliver services of high safety and quality to their community.
The health service understands that some patients might not feel comfortable coming to the service. To ensure these patients have access to the service, some of the information it provides is in visual or graphic form, to communicate the message that every community group can feel they belong here. The waiting room has paintings and other artwork from community groups, to help patients know that everyone is welcome. The receptionists are friendly and helpful, so that new patients feel glad they have come to the service. (An example of a helpful receptionist is one who provides patients with relevant information, if they can.)
Staff emphasise to patients the importance of attending a scheduled appointment. If patients have concerns about the appointment, they are encouraged to talk about their concerns so that they can be dealt with. If a patient has difficulty getting to the health service for the appointment, staff will try to arrange transport – with the service’s driver, or with a neighbour, perhaps. If staff are unable to arrange transport, they will arrange a home visit instead.
The health service’s information sheet is clear, up to date and provides information in community languages about staff members, opening hours, services provided, how to provide feedback, after-hours arrangements and contact details. The information sheet contains many pictures and diagrams and a larger font version is available for those with vision impairment.
Staff members orally explain details about the service to patients who cannot read the information sheet. This could include explaining the different staff members who work in the service and what their roles are, and telling patients when and how the service will contact them and for what reasons. Reasons could include follow-up of investigations and recalls for primary health activities – for example, immunisations, health assessments or care-plan activities. Because there is a lot of information, staff members are happy to go through it again later if any patient forgets or didn’t understand it properly the first time.
In addition to the information sheet, the service publishes a newsletter each quarter, in community languages. This newsletter details what outreach and specialist clinics are being held, where and when, and who to contact to arrange access to these. The newsletter also includes features that coincide with national health promotions – for example, diabetes week or pink ribbon or domestic violence awareness campaigns. If new staff members join the team, a feature is run including a brief introduction of the staff member, their role and how to contact them. In some cases, the service enters the above information on a whiteboard in each waiting area, instead of publishing a newsletter.
The staff member responsible for maintaining the website reviews it regularly, and updates it with details of any new staff members or changes in services as these occur.
The waiting room contains a brochure on patient health information management. This brochure explains that patients’ health records are generally kept in an electronic format only available to the staff members directly providing care to a patient or helping to organise their care. It tells patients that, with their permission, their health records will be used to send them reminders about coming to the service for immunisations, health checks, diabetes cycle-of-care activities and Pap smears (if applicable). The brochure also explains how patients can provide feedback or complaints to management, or the state or territory health complaints ombudsman.
All staff, including reception staff, have a responsibility to answer patients’ questions and to take time to explain things if patients don’t understand. Before staff assume that what they have said has been properly communicated, they will check the patient has understood. Staff also know that sometimes the information sheet is not enough, and that they may need to explain to patients what they need to do to access the service in the most effective way.
Below are some of the ways in which an Aboriginal community controlled health service might choose to demonstrate how it meets the requirements of this criterion for accreditation against the Standards. Please use the following as examples only, because your service may choose other, better-suited, forms of evidence to show how it meets the criterion.