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Communication Policy

Surf Beach Surgery endeavours to provide patients with access to timely advice or information about their clinical care via the telephone. The urgency of a patients needs are determined promptly. We aim to communicate effectively over the telephone and use simple, straight forward language and check that patients have understood what has been said.

Electronic Communication

Surf Beach Surgery prefers to not accept requests via the generic email system. Our generic email system is not encrypted and patient information could be intercepted. However, we do understand that electronic communication provides a useful and alternative point of access for our patients, so where there is no alternate option and a patient would like information sent via email, consent will be obtained, prior to any information being forwarded.

Our patients are informed of the risks associated with  communication via email  and that their privacy and confidentiality may be compromised. Patients must agree by providing consent. Our practice adheres to the Australian Privacy Principles (APPs) and  the Privacy Act 1988. The practice may become liable for the contents of any email message under certain circumstances and therefore an email disclaimer is inserted into the signature of all practice emails. Email communication between the practice and the patient, including any action taken in response to the message/s are included in the patient’s medical record. Our Practice currently uses Fax as its main communication tool.
Our practice aims to ensure all patient messages or other communications including emails that require subsequent follow-up by a doctor or other staff member are responded to in a timely manner. All messages from patients, to patients, or about patients become part of the patient’s health record, in addition to any actions taken in response to the message.
Our aim is to facilitate optimal communication opportunities with our patients. Patients who do not speak or read English or who are more proficient in another language, or who have special communication needs are offered the choice of using the assistance of a language service to communicate with the GPs or clinical team members.

Communicating by telephone
All telephone calls are answered by a member of the practice who must adhere to the following guidelines:
• Staff follow the practice booking system for all patient appointments
• Before any calls are placed on hold staff must first ask if the matter is an emergency
• Staff follow the practice triage system for patients requesting urgent appointments
• Staff make sure that the patient is correctly identified by using three of the approved patient identifiers
• Family name and given names
• Date of birth
• Gender (as identified by the patient)
• Address
• Individual Healthcare Identifier
*A Medicare number is not an approved identifier.
• Staff are mindful of confidentiality and patient’s right to privacy. No names are openly stated
over the telephone within earshot of other patients and/or visitors
• Staff members are aware of each doctor’s policy on accepting or returning calls.

In non urgent situations, patient calls need not interrupt consultations with other patients, but a message containing the information is given to the person in a timely manner

Communicating by electronic means
Our practice email account for patients and stakeholders for communication with our practice is  Only appropriate non-clinical matters are dealt with via email exchanges as stated above.
No consulting or advice services are conducted by email. This must be communicated face to face by a medical practitioner or other appropriate health professional unless there are exceptional circumstances.
This email account will be routinely checked throughout the business day by the Receptionist. Email messages are forwarded to the appropriate team member for response within 48 hours.
Communication conducted with a patient via electronic means will be added to the patient’s medical record by the team member resolving the enquiry.


Informing the clinical team of communications
All clinical communications are documented in the patients file via our internal messaging system. In a staff members absence the message will be forwarded to an appropriate team member. All urgent calls will be put through to the practice nurse for triaging , if she is unavailable a doctor is to be contacted.   
The message will record:
• The name and contact phone number of the patient/caller
• The date and time of the call
• The urgent or non-urgent nature of the call
• Important facts concerning the patient’s condition
• The advice or information received from the doctor
• Details of any follow up appointments
All documented communications are provided to the staff member on the day of receipt and must be responded to within a timely manner or within 24 hours.


Communicating with patients with special needs
A contact list of translator and interpreter services and services for patients with a disability is maintained, updated
regularly and readily available to all staff at reception. These include:
• National Relay Service (NRS) found here
• Auslan services 1300 AUSLAN
• Translation and Interpreter Service (TIS) Doctors Priority Line 1300 131 450

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