Communicate: Acute cardiac in-hospital communication experiences of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples

The “Communicate” project explores the in-hospital communication experiences of urban, rural and remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander acute cardiac patients, their families and health care providers.

It is being conducted in urban and regional settings in South Australia and the Northern Territory.

All stages of the in-hospital experience are being considered including referral into the service, presentation at the Emergency Department, hospital admission, ward experience, informed consent re procedure, during procedural intervention, during recovery, discharge and outpatient referral.

It is funded through a Heart Foundation Focus Grant and is based at South Australian Health & Medical Research Institute (SAHMRI).


Although in-hospital cardiac disparities for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are well reported, there is limited knowledge and understanding how health literacy and communication involving Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples can be enhanced during and following hospitalisation for cardiac events.

While Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples who live in remote settings have a high likelihood of having health literacy issues, those who live in regional and urban settings may also be confronted by communication difficulties.

Aims: This project aims to better understand the current hospital experiences for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients, their families and health care providers, and identify barriers, enablers and potential improvements in written and oral communications between care providers, patients and their families throughout the journey.

Outcomes: The project will make recommendations on strategies to improve the health literacy of patients and produce a resource to help health care providers better understand and respond to the experiences of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cardiac patients.

Duration: December 2014 – June 2016

Ethics: Relevant ethical approval has been sought from the appropriate Aboriginal and health services in each jurisdiction.

Project advisory group
Key stakeholders including community representatives, hospital and Heart Foundation staff will guide the project.

Study Design

Stage 1: Establish a project advisory group of key stakeholders including community representatives, and Heart Foundation and hospital staff.

Stage 2: Review and synthesis of existing knowledge regarding health literacy and communication experiences of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples while in hospital.

Stage 3: Workshops with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients, their families and health care providers.

  • Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander peopleswho have experienced an acute cardiac event in the previous 6 months will be invited to attend a workshop. Participants will be recruited during their hospital stay or from an appropriate follow up service such as a step down unit, cardiac rehabilitation program or other community health facility. They will be invited to share with the group their communication experiences at all stages of the hospital journey. Participants will then be invited to explore and identify ways to improve the health literacy and communication issues that were experienced.
  • Hospital based health care providers from specific hospitals will be invited to attend separate workshops. Health care providers may be from any stage of the hospital journey that have had experience with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients, including staff from the Emergency Department, Angiogram Suite, Cardiac Care wards, cardiac rehabilitation and also Aboriginal Health Workers and Cardiologists. These care providers will be asked to reflect on both their own experiences, and the findings from the patient and family workshops, and identify appropriate strategies for improvement.

Stage 4: Map the findings against guidelines and standardsincluding the ESSENCE Standards, national guidelines and standards, and relevant state and hospital specific standards.

Stage 5: Analysis and interpretation of all datafrom literature review, workshops and other related cardiac projects. Discuss and interpret findings with each site.

Stage 6: Make recommendations and develop an appropriate resource in partnership with the Heart Foundation.This may take the form of a video script or other relevant resource that can inform community, health and hospital staff of the current realities, and of suggested changes.

Research team

Alex Brown - Chief Investigator

Wendy Keech - Senior Project Manager & Associate Investigator

Janet Kelly - Project Coordinator & Associate Investigator

Anna Dowling- Project Assistant & Associate Investigator

Katharine McBride - Associate Investigator

For further Information contact: 

Janet Kelly, Project Coordinator P: 08 8128 4234 E:

Anna Dowling, Project Assistant P: 08 8128 4202 E:

“Communicate” is supported by the Heart Foundation. Award # 100749

Get in touch
+61 8 8128 4000
You can't miss us!
North Terrace Adelaide 5000 South Australia
Postal Address
PO BOX 11060 Adelaide 5001 South Australia
Key Partners
SAHMRI is located on the traditional lands of the Kaurna Nation.

The SAHMRI community acknowledges and respects the traditional owners, the family clans who are the Kaurna Nation from the Adelaide Plains region of South Australia. We acknowledge the clans of the Kaurna Nation and the sacred knowledge they hold for their country. We pay our respects to the Kaurna Nation, their ancestors and the descendants of these living family clans today.