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Portiuncula Hospital and Community Healthcare West launch Patient Communication Passport

 Large group of 9 members of staff lined up outside in a row outside a healthcare building. 2 staff members are holding copies of the Patient Communications Passport document.

HSE Portiuncula University Hospital (PUH) and HSE Community Healthcare West (Galway, Mayo and Roscommon) have recently introduced a new Communication Passport (‘Getting to know what matters to me’) for people living with dementia.

The passport is designed to reduce communication barriers and enhance the overall experience for people with dementia who use both hospital and community services. It can also be adapted to suit any individual who has difficulty communicating. National and international research confirms that admission to an acute hospital can be distressing and disorientating for a person living with dementia and is often associated with a decline in their cognitive ability and function levels.

The Dementia Quality Improvement Committee at Portiuncula University Hospital implemented the initiative in response to recommendations outlined in the Irish National Audit of Dementia Care in Acute Hospitals Report.  The aim of the passport is to assist an individual who is receiving professional care and is unable to effectively disclose information about themselves, especially if they have special requirements or preferences.

The person, along with their family or carers, is asked to record information in the passport that will help them communicate. This includes their personal history; likes and dislikes; important people or places in their lives, and normal routines and abilities.  The passport is a valuable tool for patients transitioning from one care environment to another and meeting new people.  It should travel with the person and be available for use when the person is experiencing any episode of care. 

Speaking about the new initiative, Paula Noone, Assistant Director of Nursing, Dementia Quality Improvement, Saolta Group, explained that the passport “immediately indicates whether a patient has any communication difficulties. It allows healthcare staff to see, at a glance, some of the critical information that they may have difficulty obtaining, as well as assisting them understand how to effectively engage with the patient they are seeing.”

John Brennan, Dementia Coordinator for Community Healthcare West adds that they want to “make sure that all our patients are as comfortable as possible while in a healthcare setting and the passport is another tool to assist with that. We want to ensure that the person feels valued and included, especially when interacting with new people and going through inevitable care transitions.”

James Keane, Hospital Manager, noted that the new initiative aims to “provide person-centred and compassionate integrated care, while also promoting the delivery of safer healthcare. Having greater supports in place like the passport will greatly enhance the care we provide to patients who have difficulty communicating. Ensuring we have processes to assist in meeting the needs of our patients is a priority for the hospital.”