Expertise / Health / Research

Emergency talks – designing emergency departments to maximise staff communication

Winner of the Design Research Project Award at the European Healthcare Design Awards 2017

Studies indicate that up to 80 percent of medical errors are due to miscommunication. Accuracy and efficiency of communication between medical staff and confidentiality of information are critical to patient outcomes, but there is evidence of the need to improve both in public hospital emergency departments.

In 2017, HASSELL collaborated with the University of Melbourne Centre for Health Policy and the Monash Health Partnership at Deakin University to identify design elements of emergency departments that inhibit or optimise staff communication. The study received funding from the Australian Commonwealth Department of Industry’s Research Connections programme.

The emergency department staff who participated in the study reported that outside of the formal communication that happens in meetings and handovers, there are countless informal conversations between staff in passing that are just as important for patient care – but that these must be balanced against the need for patient confidentiality.

They reported that while emergency departments typically provide a range of spaces that can be, and are, used for these informal exchanges, some are not suitable for confidential conversations.

The results of this study suggest that emergency department staff want small, adaptable, visually connected but acoustically separated spaces.In the frenetic environment of the Emergency Department, communication is the key to effective teamwork needed to calm, prioritise and treat those in need. 

New types of protected spaces that staff can use for a variety of activities, including both confidential and informal conversations, would provide the missing critical spaces that hospital staff need to communicate effectively.

Click here to read the full report.

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