Critical information

Critical information is information that has a considerable impact on a patient’s health, wellbeing or ongoing care (physical or psychological). The availability of critical information may require a clinician to reassess or change a patient’s comprehensive care plan.

Communicating when critical information emerges or changes

Emerging or new critical information can occur outside formal clinical handover, and for timely action to occur, information must be communicated to the right person (that is, a clinician who can make decisions about care) and documented to ensure patient safety.  

Key messages

  • Critical information can arise at any point during a patient’s care
  • Effective communication of critical information is essential to ensure safe, appropriate and coordinated patient care
  • Critical information can come from a number of sources, including patients, families and carers    
  • It is important to consider the context in which care is being delivered, as what is considered ‘critical information’ will depend on the type of service provided, the particular needs of the local population using the service, and the particular goals and care needs of the patient 
  • Closed-loop communication, where there is acknowledgement that the information has been received and action will be taken, is essential. 

Communication strategies

Other relevant strategies for communicating critical information can be found under: 

Why is it important?

Critical information can arise at any point during a patient’s care. This can include clinical and non-clinical information.

Timely and effective communication of critical information to the appropriate person (or people) is essential to ensuring patient safety and the delivery of the right care. It is known that failure to communicate, or poor communication, of critical information can result in failure to rescue, inappropriate treatment, care that does not align with the patient’s goals or preferences, and poor coordination of care

Taking action: What is my role?