Medical Council of New South Wales Provides Guidance on Addressing Language Barriers to Patient Consent

In response to low rates of health literacy among Australians, the Medical Council of New South Wales has created a new web page offering resources to improve communications between patients and physicians.

According to the Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Healthcare, almost 60% of adult Australians have low health literacy, which means they may not be able to effectively participate when making health care decisions. Patients who do not properly understand the meaning of what they may describe as “medical jargon” may minimize the impact of their health conditions, according to the Medical Council, “so they end up more acutely unwell, endure long hospital stays and have an increased risk of readmission.”

In Australia the situation is exacerbated for patients whose first language is not English, with some speaking very little English, if any at all. Cultural issues also interfere with good communication — for example, increased suspicion and anxiety in medical settings that may be experienced by historically disempowered minorities.

To assist patients and physicians, the Medical Council’s web page offers advice on how to reduce anxiety in medical encounters, build trust, and overcome language barriers. Helpful reminders are provided for physicians, including a list of essential points that should always be covered during their interactions with patients. These include information about diagnosis, potential benefits and risks of treatment, other treatment options, costs of medical procedures and the maintenance of good medical records.

Physicians are encouraged to use Australia’s free Healthcare Interpreter Service (a public system) or private translation-services when interacting with patients who have low health literacy. The Medical Council discourages the use of family or friends to translate, which may be unreliable and can raise confidentiality issues.

The Medical Council’s web page also includes suggestions for the use of specific communication techniques, such as the “Teach-Back” method, which helps patients better understand information by asking them to state in their own words what they need to know or do about their health. This may include asking them about their understanding of what they’ve been told about their diagnosis and its impact, what they are considering as they decide whether to consent to a procedure and what they understand will happen if they elect to do nothing at all.

The web page also includes links to a variety of web-based additional resources for physicians. To view the web page, please visit

Source: Medical Council of New South Wales website


Registration Open for IAMRA 2021 Virtual Conference

The International Association of Medical Regulatory Authorities (IAMRA) will host its first-ever Virtual Conference October 12–14, 2021, with the theme “Supporting a Workforce Under Pressure — the Regulator’s Role.”

In order to make the conference as accessible and flexible as possible, this year IAMRA member- and non-member organizations will each pay a single registration fee according to their country’s World Bank category. This fee will entitle all those that work for the organization to attend as little or as much of the conference as they wish.

As IAMRA has members all around the world, the conference start time will be different on each day so that the majority of attendees will have at least one day when it will be convenient for them to attend the conference virtually. All attendees will also have the option to attend virtually on every day of the conference.

Sub-themes that will be explored during the conference include physician wellness; disruption in regulation (ranging from impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic to climate change and medical misinformation); and a theme titled “redesigning regulation” that will explore new technologies, such as telehealth and artificial intelligence, and emerging concepts — such as team-based care and humanizing regulation.

All conference sessions will be recorded so that attendees can watch sessions at their leisure if they are unable to attend the live event. Conference content will be different on each day of the three-day event, with daily programming scheduled to be four hours and 15 minutes in duration.

A short video about the conference may be viewed at

For more registration information, please visit or contact the IAMRA Secretariat at

Source: IAMRA announcement,

IAMRA Webinar on ‘Humanizing Regulation’ Now Available Online

A recording of the latest in a series of educational webinars from IAMRA, “The Challenge of Humanizing Medical Regulation in a Post-COVID World,” is now available in the Members Only section of the IAMRA website.

In an announcement about the new webinar, IAMRA described it as exploring how the processes of medical regulation “can have a devastating impact on the stress, health and well-being of doctors, particularly when they are under investigation” and examining concepts intended to humanize regulatory processes.

The IAMRA webinar included discussions of the impact of stress related to medical regulation, particularly in light of the increased pressure on health care professionals as a result of the pandemic environment, asking several key questions:

  • What have physicians under investigation told regulators about the experience?

  • What does humane regulation mean?

  • How should we respond as medical regulators across the world, particularly in the emerging post-Covid world?

Martin Fletcher, CEO of the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (Ahpra) and a member of IAMRA’s Management Committee, chaired the webinar, and the lead speaker was Anna van der Gaag, former Chair of the Health and Care Professions Council (UK), and now with an academic appointment at University of Surrey. Ms. van der Gaag addressed the topic of “kindness in regulation” — what it means and why it is important — and the growth of “relational regulation.”

Panelists included Susan Biggar, National Engagement Advisor for Ahpra, speaking on how physicians experience medical regulation, and Dr. Heidi Oetter, Registrar of the College of Physician and Surgeons of British Columbia, Canada, and Chair-elect of IAMRA, speaking on how medical regulators are humanizing regulatory processes — especially in the post-COVID environment.

For more information about viewing this and other webinars, please visit or contact the IAMRA Secretariat at

Source: IAMRA email announcement, April 29, 2021