Going to hospital can be confusing or scary for anyone.
For those with an intellectual disability (ID), a lack of understanding about the procedures they’re about to undergo can make things worse.
That’s why we agreed to be part of the Say Less Show More project. Working with a team led by Ryde Hospital in Sydney, we helped develop visual aids for patients with intellectual disabilities that can help them when they are accessing health services.
The idea for this project came about after feedback from patients and healthcare professionals, who were concerned that people were becoming upset and distressed when they came to hospital. Because of the way that information is presented to them, many patients have difficulty understanding what doctors and nurses need to do, making it difficult for staff to treat them properly and their hospital visit a lot more stressful.
Staff at Ryde Hospital had heard about a project at the Children’s Hospital, Westmead, where a series of photo stories were developed about common hospital procedures for children. They felt that this would be very useful in their own hospital to make patients’ experiences more positive.
Known as Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC), these strategies are widely used outside healthcare settings to assist people with disabilities. AAC includes pictures or visuals, simple text, real objects or gestures.
Our project officer worked with Ryde Hospital’s Hospital Steering Committee and expert panel to coordinate the running of the project. With input from hospital staff, the team identified and agreed on the most important procedures to focus on. They produced five visual booklets on the following topics:
- Taking blood
- x-ray and CT scans
- Physical examinations
- Prepping for an operation
The booklets will be available in a ready-to-print format as well as on mobile hospital computers, which staff can play like a PowerPoint presentation and watch with patients on a screen.
The final five photo stories chosen were also identified by staff as having the potential to be used to assist other hospital patients e.g. people from non-English speaking backgrounds or patients who are more anxious about their hospital stay. The booklets are also a great way to raise staff awareness about how they are communicating with patients, highlighting the importance of slowing down and giving people more time to process information and ask questions about their hospital stay.
Overall it is very worthwhile project which will create a more positive healthcare experience, not just for patients with intellectual disability, but for the wider community.