The Communicate Study: partnership across the Top End to improve Aboriginal patients’ experience and outcomes of healthcare

The vision of the Communicate Study Partnership is to ensure more Aboriginal patients receive culturally safe healthcare, to ensure better health outcomes. 

The NT is well placed to be a leader in cultural safety. In Australia’s NT, the majority (70%) of hospitalised people are Aboriginal. Most health providers are non-Indigenous, many are unfamiliar with the diversity and strength of Aboriginal cultures in the NT, and struggle to deliver culturally competent care. Culturally unsafe care has resulted in death, absence of informed consent, high rates of self-discharge, amputations without patient permission and distrust of healthcare providers.

Our focus is on improving the cultural safety of institutions and healthcare providers themselves by:

This is a multi-level partnership between Menzies School of Health Research, the NT Department of Health, the NT Aboriginal Interpreter Services (AIS), National Accreditation Authority for Translators and Interpreters (NAATI) and Aboriginal leaders, health professionals and educators in the NT.

Chief investigator:
PhD student:
Information for study participants:
  • The dynamic Communicate study team has forged collaborations with NT Health, NT Aboriginal Interpreter Service (AIS), National Accreditation Authority for Translators and Interpreters (NAATI) and Aboriginal community leaders in the Top End. Research has focused on Royal Darwin Hospital, but from 2022 onwards the project is expanding to encompass Palmerston Hospital, Katherine Hospital and Gove District Hospital.

This project has both qualitative and quantitative PhD/Master by research opportunities. Please contact us for more information.

Contact information:
Project dates:
  • 2015 - current
Funders: 
  • NHMRC Partnership Grant 2008644, 2022-2026
  • MRFF Rapid Applied Research Translation Grant 2022-2027
  • Menzies School of Health Research small grants scheme
Collaborators
  • NT Health
  • NT Aboriginal Interpreter Service
  • National Accreditation Authority for Translators and Interpreters (NAATI)
  • Stuart Yiwarr McGrath
  • Rarrtjiwuy Melanie Herdman
  • Aunty Bilawara Lee
  • Pirrawayingi Puruntatameri

  1. MEDIA RELEASE | $1.5 million to improve patient-provider communication in NT hospitals

    MEDIA RELEASE | $1.5 million to improve patient-provider communication in NT hospitals

    Date

    The Communicate Study, led by Menzies, was today awarded a five-year major investment of $1.5 million from the National Health and Medical Research Council to improve patient-provider communication at Royal Darwin, Gove and Katherine District Hospitals.

  2. NT News | Communication to be better after boost

    NT News | Communication to be better after boost

    Date

    Menzies School of Health Research has been awarded $1.5m to develop health communications in language for NT Aboriginal peoples.

  3. ANZCA Award

    ANZCA Award

    Date

    Congratulations to Vicki Kerrigan, winner of ANZCA's 2021 Grant Noble Award for best postgraduate abstract.

  4. Young Australian of the Year finalists committed to helping those in need

    Young Australian of the Year finalists committed to helping those in need

    Date

    The NT's Young Australian of the Year also helped produce the Ask the Specialist podcast with Menzies School of Health Research.

  5. 2020 CSL Florey Next Generation Award

    2020 CSL Florey Next Generation Award

    Date

    Vicki Kerrigan, announced as a finalist – for improving Aboriginal health outcomes in the Northern Territory by reimagining how the cultural education can be delivered for healthcare providers.

  6. NT podcast recognised on national stage

    NT podcast recognised on national stage

    Date

    A Northern Territory podcast designed to inspire better healthcare has picked up a silver medal for Smartest Podcast at the Australian Podcast Awards.

  7. Podcast delivers specialist cultural advice on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander healthcare

    Podcast delivers specialist cultural advice on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander healthcare

    Date

    A new Australian made podcast that reveals the reality of the hospital experience for Aboriginal patients in the Top End of the Northern Territory is receiving plaudits for its approach to cultural education in healthcare.

  8. Oz Podcast Winners Revealed

    Oz Podcast Winners Revealed

    Date

    The winners of the Australian Podcast Awards for 2020 were announced last night (21/11), celebrating the best Australian podcasts across 24 different categories.

  9. NT health expert, trainee nurse honoured

    NT health expert, trainee nurse honoured

    Date

    The Northern Territory's Australian of the Year awardees include NT health expert Dr Wendy Page and Aboriginal Health Practitioner Stuart McGrath. Stuart helped develop the Ask the Specialist podcast.

  10. Interpreters for Aboriginal people in hospital

    Interpreters for Aboriginal people in hospital

    Date

    On Health Report with Dr Norman Swan - Prof Anna Ralph - Menzies School of Health Research and Infectious Diseases Physician, RDH

  11. Sunday Territorian | Interpreters vital at RDH

    Sunday Territorian | Interpreters vital at RDH

    Date

    A year-long study conducted by Royal Darwin Hospital has found an increase in the use of Aboriginal interpreters in hospitals is associated with a decline in the number of patients who leave treatment early.

  12. More Aboriginal interpreters result in less self-discharges from hospitals, new research finds

    More Aboriginal interpreters result in less self-discharges from hospitals, new research finds

    Date

    The Communicate study, led by Professor Anna Ralph, has found that employing Aboriginal interpreters in hospitals can impact the rate of patients leaving treatment early.

  13. Interpreter boost reduces patient self-discharge

    Interpreter boost reduces patient self-discharge

    Date

    A study conducted at RDH has found that increased use of Aboriginal interpreters was associated with a decrease in patients leaving treatment early.

  14. Increased interpreter use linked to decrease in patient self-discharges

    Increased interpreter use linked to decrease in patient self-discharges

    Date

    A new study in the MJA has found that an increase in using Aboriginal interpreters in a hospital was associated with a decrease in patients leaving treatment early.

  15. The ‘Communicate’ Study : Poster

    The ‘Communicate’ Study : Poster

    Date

    A poster presentation on a study of patient-provider intercultural communication at Royal Darwin Hospital and consequently Aboriginal patient health outcomes, measured using quantitative and qualitative data.

  1. Kerrigan, V., McGrath, S. Y., Herdman, R. M., Puruntatameri, P., Lee, B., Cass, A., Ralph, A. P., & Hefler, M. (2022). Evaluation of “Ask the Specialist": a cultural education podcast to inspire improved healthcare for Aboriginal peoples in Northern Australia. Health Sociology Review.(‘Yuwinbir’, a special issue of Health Sociology Review on Indigenous and sociological knowledges: Meeting points for health equity). https://doi.org/https://doi.org/10.1080/14461242.2022.2055484
  2. O’Connor, E., V. Kerrigan, R. Aitken, C. Castillon, V. Mithen, G. Madrill, C. Roman and A. P. Ralph (2021). "Does improved interpreter uptake reduce self-discharge rates in hospitalised patients? A successful hospital intervention explained." PLOS ONE, 16(10): e0257825. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0257825
  3. Kerrigan, V., S. Y. McGrath, S. W. Majoni, M. Walker, M. Ahmat, B. Lee, A. Cass, M. Hefler and A. P. Ralph (2021). "“The talking bit of medicine, that’s the most important bit”: doctors and Aboriginal interpreters collaborate to transform culturally competent hospital care." International Journal for Equity in Health, 20(1): 170. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12939-021-01507-1%C2%A0
  4. Kerrigan, V., S. Y. McGrath, S. W. Majoni, M. Walker, M. Ahmat, B. Lee, A. Cass, M. Hefler and A. P. Ralph (2021). "From “stuck” to satisfied: Aboriginal people’s experience of culturally safe care with interpreters in a Northern Territory hospital." BMC Health Services Research 21(1): 548. https://bmchealthservres.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12913-021-06564-4
  5. Mithen, V., V. Kerrigan, G. Dhurrkay, T. Morgan, N. Keilor, C. Castillon, M. Hefler and A. P. Ralph (2021). "Aboriginal patient and interpreter perspectives on the delivery of culturally safe hospital‐based care." Health Promot J Austr 32(S1): 155-165. https://doi.org/10.1002/hpja.415
  6. The Communicate Study group (2020). "Improving communication with Aboriginal hospital inpatients: a quasi-experimental interventional study." Medical Journal of Australia, 213(4): 180-181. doi: 10.5694/mja2.50700
  7. Kerrigan, V., N. Lewis, A. Cass, M. Hefler and A. P. Ralph (2020). "“How can I do more?” Cultural awareness training for hospital-based healthcare providers working with high Aboriginal caseload." BMC Medical Education, 20(1): 173. https://bmcmededuc.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12909-020-02086-5
  8. Ralph, A. P., A. Lowell, J. Murphy, T. Dias, D. Butler, B. Spain, J. T. Hughes, L. Campbell, B. Bauert, C. Salter, K. Tune and A. Cass (2017). "Low uptake of Aboriginal interpreters in healthcare: exploration of current use in Australia's Northern Territory." BMC Health Services Research 17(1): 733. https://bmchealthservres.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12913-017-2689-y
Research Scholar – Masters or PhD (Quantitative)

We are seeking an economics graduate wishing to study for a Master by Research or Doctor of Philosophy degree at Menzies School of Health Research, Charles Darwin University.

The student will be part of The Communicate Study, led by Professor Anna Ralph, which aims to improve Aboriginal patients’ experience and outcomes of healthcare by ensuring that they receive culturally safe healthcare in their own language. The study implements and evaluates creative ways to embed culturally safe practice including Aboriginal interpreters and health practitioners in healthcare delivery. The study is being conducted in partnership between the key stakeholders: Northern Territory Government (Top End) health services, the NT Aboriginal Interpreter Service, the National Accreditation Authority for Translators and Interpreters and Menzies School of Health Research.

The range of research activities the student could undertake includes:

  • Determine costs and cost effectiveness of study activities and recommendations to improve demand, supply and efficiency of Aboriginal interpreter usage.
    • establish a linked dataset of hospital Admitted Patient Care outcomes (self-discharge, length of stay, readmission) with language documentation and Aboriginal interpreter use
    • explore relationships between interpreter access and outcomes
    • apply interrupted time series analysis to determine longitudinal changes
  • Implement initiatives to help achieve KPI targets including technological improvements - such as iPad-based interpreter access via video link and development of resources for common medical conditions in Aboriginal languages.
  • Feed data back in a continuous quality improvement process to key health system stakeholders and front-line healthcare providers to build momentum in health system improvements to achieve better outcomes

Eligibility: The successful applicant will need to meet the eligibility criteria for admission to a Master by Research or Doctor of Philosophy degree at Charles Darwin University.

Scholarship Provisions: Candidates will be encouraged to seek Research Training Program (RTP) scholarship funding from 2023 through Charles Darwin University. A successful candidate who is a recipient of a primary scholarship such as RTP will be eligible to apply for a Menzies top-up scholarship to the value of $10,000 per annum for up to 3.5 years. Successful candidates will receive $3,500 per annum for up to 3.5 years to cover direct costs of the research. A student who wishes to commence before 2023 may be provided with limited project-funded support for 2022. Please note in your application if you require this funding.

Application Process: Applicants should submit the following:

  • Brief summary of why they want to participate in the project
  • Current CV
  • Copies of certified academic transcripts
  • Proof of Residency (not required for Australian citizens)

All applications and enquiries should be submitted to Prof Anna Ralph anna.ralph@menzies.edu.au.