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Overcoming barriers to communication

Lack of remuneration for consultation services

Collaboration between treating health professionals is important to ensure patient access to high quality care. However, there is a lack of remuneration for communication or case conferencing between mental health professionals, including under the Better Access program. This can be a barrier to effective communication practices, and professionals may not prioritise communication with other health professionals due to the lack of remuneration. Although not remunerated by the MBS, it is important for health professionals to develop consultation protocols that facilitate collaboration between professionals and reflect professional and ethical practice that is in the best interests of patients.

Principle 14: Health professionals recognise the value of effective communication

Health professionals recognise the value of effective communication with other health professionals as best practice service delivery even when there is no remuneration for the time commitment.


Health professionals typically lead busy professional lives, work to different schedules and different session lengths depending on the services they provide (e.g., 10 minute, 30 minute or 50 minute sessions). It can be challenging to find a mutually convenient time to communicate. Nevertheless, it is important that health professionals schedule time to be available for consultation with other members of a treating team as a matter of routine (e.g., set aside in a scheduling tool or calendar) and to communicate availability. Providing this service ensures that all health professionals are updated on progress and are able to provide patients with a high level of personalised care.

Administrative practices such as screening of calls by support staff (e.g., practice managers, practice nurses, and other administrative staff) can at times be a barrier to effective communication by making it difficult for health professionals to connect. Clinical matters are typically confidential and to be discussed with the health professionals only. Staff training can assist in facilitating effective communication processes around patient care. For example, by establishing a protocol for how calls are managed that include a focus on enabling direct communication between health professionals.

Principle 15: Scheduled case consultation

Health professionals schedule time for consultation or case reviews with other professionals as part of routine patient care.

Principle 16: Administrative staff support communication practices

Practice staff are trained to support and facilitate communication between health professionals.

Patient consent

Confidentiality and patient consent is essential for providing ethical mental health services. Most patients will provide consent for members of the treating team to communicate with each other to provide a more seamless and unified service. On some occasions however, for various reasons, patients may not provide consent for the sharing of their health information. It is therefore important to determine early on in treatment whether or not mental health professionals have patient consent to communicate clinical information and the boundaries to any such communication. Where a patient does not provide consent, the implications of not doing so are explained to them.

Principle 17: Informed consent

Health professionals seek patient consent to communicate information to other health professionals and respect the patient’s wishes should they refuse consent, unless risk issues contraindicate principles of informed consent.

Principle 18: Explaining the implications of not providing consent

Health providers inform the patient of the potential implications of not providing consent for communication between health professionals.


Practice guide: Communication between medical and mental health professionals