• Identify, document and share the patient’s communication needs.
  • Identify, document and share any trusted people the patient wants to assist them with communication and / or decisions.
  • Ensure patient has access to a reliable means of communicating at all times and prior to requesting informed consent to treatment.
  • Allow support person to assist with communication and/or decision making when required.
  • Engage a Speech language Pathologist if patient has no reliable way to communicate.

Communicating with a patient who has a communication disability:

  • Learn how the patient communicates.
  • Talk directly to the patient in a respectful manner. Do not “talk down” to the patient.
  • Support persons or family members should help you communicate WITH the patient, not speak FOR the patient.
  • Slow your talking slightly.
  • Pause between your sentences to give the patient time to process what is said.
  • Present one idea at a time.
  • If your patient has difficulty understanding, use short sentences and give examples.
  • Ask questions in different ways to check the patient is understanding.
  • Show what you are talking about by using gestures, pointing to pictures, drawings and objects.
  • Engage a Speech Language Pathologist if the patient has a complex communication disability or no obvious way of communicating; if you question the patient’s capacity to provide informed consent; if you see evidence of a conflict of interest, undue persuasion or coercion from support person(s) and in critical communication contexts such as medical assistance in dying.


Communication Supports in Capacity

Communication Supports Glossary

CDAC webinars on access to healthcare

Patient Provider Communication

Communication Toolkit

Commercial healthcare vocabulary displays

Blackstone, Beukleman and Yorkston (2015) Patient-Provider Communication: Roles for Speech-Language Pathologists and other Health Care Professionals.

Audience: Doctors; Dentists; Therapists; Social Workers and other healthcare professionals
Runtime: 1.38 min.
Focus: Colin Phillips on communication access within healthcare services

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Audience: Professionals who work in hospitals, complex care facilities, nursing homes, clinics, home health services and hospices.
Runtime: 4:38 mins
Focus: Steve Wells on communication barriers in a healthcare setting.