Communicating in Hospital Emergency Departments

Ineffective communication has been identified as the major cause of critical incidents in public hospitals. Critical incidents are adverse events leading to avoidable patient harm. This project, by examining spoken interactions between health-care practitioners and patients in hospital emergency departments, identified and analysed causes of misunderstandings and breakdowns.

The Emergency Communication Project was conceived in response to the increasing realisation of the central role of communication in effective healthcare delivery, particularly in high stress contexts such as emergency departments. Over the last decade, as critical incidents have increased, growing attention has been paid to the relationship between communication (in particular, communication breakdowns) and patient safety. The research presents a detailed picture of the critical importance of communication in the delivery of effective and patient-centred care, and provides a detailed analysis of the way in which communication occurs and, at times, fails.

Executive summary

Full final report

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