2. Safe Healthcare

“Keeping People with Communication Disability

Safe in Hospital”

Launched: 1st August, 2013 (2013-)


UPDATE: NEW Published Research

Visit our Blog for more research updates

Research Review

Summaries of recently published research in this area

Validation of choking and pneumonia risk assessments for adults with IDD

Project Description

Improving the safety of the most vulnerable patients in hospital is a high priority in any self-improving health system. Currently, patients with severe communication disabilities – who often also have high physical support needs – face a three-fold increased risk for patient safety incidents in hospital. These patients experience significantly longer longer stays and re-admission rates as a result of harmful and preventable patient safety incidents. This will continue without adequate information on the causes of increased risk and ecologically appropriate interventions to ameliorate this risk.

An estimated 15% of hospital patients at any one time in high dependency wards have communication disabilities that prevent communication by speech. This study involves the analysis of data from four sources and by a multidisciplinary Expert Consensus Panel to produce:
(a) an evidence based-framework of patient safety incidents in adults with pre-existing severe communication disabilities, and
(b) a theoretically tested Clinical Audit Tool for Communication in Hospital (CATCH) that will help to reduce the physical, psycho-social and financial costs associated with harmful and preventable patient safety incidents in hospital related to communication disabilities.

Research Team

Chief Investigators:
Prof. Bronwyn Hemsley, The University of Technology Sydney (UTS).
Prof. Andrew Georgiou, Macquarie University NSW.
Dr. Sophie Hill, La Trobe University; Cochrane Consumers and Communication Review Group.

Associate Investigators:
Prof. Susan Balandin, Deakin University, Victoria Australia.
Dr. Anne Duggan, Hunter New England Health
Dr. Leanne Johnston, Cerebral Palsy League and The University of Queensland
Ms. Karen Kelly, Hunter New England Health
Dr. John Wakefield, Queensland Health
Prof. Linda Worrall, The University of Queensland, Aphasia CCRE

Contact: Prof. Bronwyn Hemsley



This project is funded by the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) from 1st August 2013-18.



A SafetyCatch Newsletter with project updates was published in 2014 and 2015

SafetyCATCHnewsletter Issue 1 March 2014

SafetyCatch Newsletter Issue2 March 2015

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