Improving Communication in Healthcare Services to Aboriginal People at Royal Darwin Hospital: Stages 1 and 2
Aims:
  • To improve the experience of care and health outcomes for Aboriginal people at Royal Darwin Hospital by improving the quality of communication. 
Objectives:

In Stage 1, we explored the barriers to achieving effective communication, including interpreter usage, and identified opportunities for improvement.
In Stage 2 (currently underway), an Interpreter Coordinator has been appointed at the hospital, and we are evaluating this role including impact on numbers of interpreter bookings, experience of use of the Aboriginal Interpreter Service, and impact on patient experience and outcomes. 

Summary:

Effective health communication is fundamental to ensuring quality and safety of health services but is particularly challenging when staff and patients do not share the same language and cultural background. Many Aboriginal patients at Royal Darwin Hospital (RDH) do not speak English as their primary language. However, uptake of Aboriginal Interpreter Services is extremely low and on-site accessibility has decreased.

This is a multi-level partnership between RDH, Aboriginal Interpreter Services, Department of Health, Menzies School of Health Research and Charles Darwin University, providing Indigenous employment and capacity building.

After publishing findings from Stage 1 and advocating for improved accessibility of interpreter services and other strategies to assist culturally competent communication, Top End Health Services have employed an Aboriginal Interpreter Coordinator and have created extra Aboriginal Health Practitioner positions within acute medical services. The impact of these interventions are now being evaluated. 

Chief investigator:
Project officer:
PhD student
Contact information:
Project dates:
  • 2015 - current
Funders: 
  • Charles Darwin University - Menzies School of Health Research - Supporting Stronger Partnerships program
  • Menzies School of Health Research small grants scheme
Investigators and collaborators:
  • Professor Anna Ralph (Menzies/RDH)
  • Associate Professor Anne Lowell (CDU)
  • Mr Craig Castillon (Royal Darwin Hospital, Top End Health Services)
  • Ms Gail Madrill (Royal Darwin Hospital, Top End Health Services)
  • Ms Margaret Rajak (Royal Darwin Hospital, Top End Health Services)
  • Ms Galathi Dhurrkay (Aboriginal Interpreter Service /Menzies)
  • Mr David Alexander (Aboriginal Interpreter Service)
  • Ms Colleen Rosas (Aboriginal Interpreter Service)
  • Professor Alan Cass (Menzies)
  • Dr Brain Spain (RDH)
PhD student

  • Vicki Kerrigan
 

  1. 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

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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., Lewis, N., Cass, A., Hefler, M. and Ralph, A. (2020). “How can I do more?” Cultural awareness training for hospital-based healthcare providers working with high Aboriginal caseload. BMC Medical Education, 20(173). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12909-020-02086-5
  2. The 'Communicate' Study Poster: Improving communication with hospitalised Aboriginal patients to ensure quality and safety in healthcare.
    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.
  3. Anna P. Ralph, Anne Lowell, Jean Murphy, Tara Dias, Deborah Butler, Brian Spain, Jaquelyne T. Hughes, Lauren Campbell, Barbara Bauert, Claire Salter, Kylie Tune and Alan Cass Low uptake of Aboriginal interpreters in healthcare: exploration of current use in Australia’s Northern Territory -  BMC Health Services Research.