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A status that is conferred on an organisation or individual when they have been assessed as having met particular standards. The two conditions for accreditation are compliance with an explicit definition of quality (that is, a standard) and passing an independent review process aimed at identifying the level of congruence between practices and quality standards.

Adverse event

An incident that results in harm to a patient or consumer.


A chemical substance that inhibits or destroys bacteria, viruses or fungi, including yeasts and moulds.2

Antimicrobial resistance

A property of organisms – including bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites – that allows them to grow or survive in the presence of antimicrobial levels that would normally suppress growth or kill susceptible organisms.

Antimicrobial stewardship

A program implemented in a health service organisation to reduce the risks associated with increasing antimicrobial resistance, and to extend the effectiveness of antimicrobial treatments. Antimicrobial stewardship may incorporate a broad range of strategies, including monitoring and reviewing antimicrobial use.

Clinical care standards

Standards developed by the Commission and endorsed by health ministers that identify and define the care people should expect to be offered or receive for specific conditions.

Clinical communication

The exchange of information about a person’s care that occurs between treating clinicians, the patient and members of a multidisciplinary team. Communication can take different forms, including face-to-face or electronic communication, and communication via telephone, written notes or other documentation.

Clinical governance

The set of relationships and responsibilities established by a health service organisation between its department of health (for the public sector), governing body, executive, clinicians, patients, consumers and other stakeholders to ensure good clinical outcomes. It ensures that the community and health service organisations can be confident that systems are in place to deliver safe and high-quality health care, and continuously improve services.

Clinical handover

The transfer of professional responsibility and accountability for some or all aspects of care for a patient, or group of patients, to another person or professional group on a temporary or permanent basis.3


A healthcare provider, trained as a health professional. Clinicians include registered and non-registered practitioners, or teams of health professionals, who spend the majority of their time delivering direct clinical care.

Cognitive impairment

Deficits in one or more of the areas of memory, communication, attention, thinking and judgement. Cognitive impairment can be temporary or permanent, and can affect a person’s understanding, their ability to carry out tasks or follow instructions, their recognition of people or objects, how they relate to others and how they interpret the environment. Dementia and delirium are common forms of cognitive impairment seen in hospitalised older patients.4 Cognitive impairment can also be caused by other conditions, such as an acquired brain injury, a stroke, intellectual disability or drug use.


A person who has used, or may potentially use, health services. A healthcare consumer may also act as a consumer representative to provide a consumer perspective, contribute consumer experiences, advocate for the interests of current and potential health service users, and take part in decision-making processes.5


An acute disturbance of consciousness, attention, cognition and perception that tends to fluctuate during the course of the day. Delirium is a serious condition that can be prevented in 30–40% of cases, and should be treated promptly and appropriately. Hospitalised older people with existing dementia are at the greatest risk of developing delirium. Delirium can be hyperactive (the person has heightened arousal, or can be restless, agitated and aggressive) or hypoactive (the person is withdrawn, quiet and sleepy).6

Electronic medication management system

Enables medicines to be prescribed, dispensed, administered and reconciled electronically.

End of life

The period when a patient is living with, and impaired by, a fatal condition, even if the trajectory is ambiguous or unknown. This period may be years in the case of patients with chronic or malignant disease, or very brief in the case of patients who suffer acute and unexpected illnesses or events such as sepsis, stroke or trauma.7

Hand hygiene

A general term referring to any hand-cleansing action.

Healthcare-associated infections

Infections that are acquired in healthcare facilities (nosocomial infections) or that occur as a result of healthcare interventions (iatrogenic infections). Healthcare-associated infections may manifest after people leave healthcare facilities.8

Healthcare variation

This occurs when patients with the same condition receive different types of care. For example, among a group of patients with the same condition, some may have no active treatment, some may be treated in the community and others in hospital, and some may have surgery while others receive medication. Some variation in how health care is provided is desirable because of differences in patients’ needs, wants and preferences (see ‘unwarranted healthcare variation’).

Hospital-acquired complication

A complication for which clinical risk mitigation strategies may reduce (but not necessarily eliminate) the risk of that complication occurring.

Medication chart

A chart used by an authorised prescriber to record medication and treatment orders, as well as by nursing staff to record and monitor the administration of medicines and treatment.

My Health Record

A secure online summary of a consumer’s health information, managed by the System Operator of the national e-health record system (the Secretary to the Department of Health). Healthcare providers are able to share health records to a consumer’s My Health Record, in accordance with the consumer’s access controls. This may include information such as medical history and treatments, diagnoses, medications and allergies. Also known as a ‘Personally Controlled Electronic Health Record’.

National Safety and Quality Health Service (NSQHS) Standards

Standards developed by the Commission in consultation and collaboration with states and territories, technical experts, health service organisations and patients. The NSQHS Standards aim to protect the public from harm, and to improve the quality of health services. They provide a quality assurance mechanism that tests whether relevant systems are in place to ensure that minimum safety and quality standards are met, and a quality improvement mechanism that allows health service organisations to realise aspirational or developmental goals.

Partnering with consumers

Treating consumers and/or carers with dignity and respect, communicating and sharing information between consumers and/or carers and health service organisations, encouraging and supporting consumers’ participation in decision-making, and fostering collaboration between consumers and/or carers and health service organisations in planning, designing, delivering and evaluating health care. Other terms are used internationally, such as patient-based, consumer-centred, person-centred, relationship-based, patient-centred and patient‑and-family‑centred care.


A person receiving health care. Synonyms for ‘patient’ include ‘consumer’ and ‘client’.

Patient safety

Reducing the risk of unnecessary harm associated with health care to an acceptable minimum.

Patient safety incident

An event or circumstance that could have resulted, or did result, in unnecessary harm to a patient.

Person-centred care

Where patients, consumers and members of the community are treated as partners in all aspects of healthcare planning, design, delivery and evaluation; the foundation for achieving safe, high-quality care.

Shared decision making

The integration of a patient’s values, goals and concerns with the best available evidence about the benefits, risks and uncertainties of treatment to achieve appropriate healthcare decisions.9


Agreed attributes and processes designed to ensure that a product, service or method will perform consistently at a designated level.

Unwarranted healthcare variation

Variation not attributed to a patient’s needs, wants or preferences. It may reflect differences in clinicians’ practices, the organisation of health care or people’s access to services. It may also reflect poor-quality care that is not in accordance with evidence-based practice.