Enhancing Allied Health ward based leadership: Allied Health Flow and Interdisciplinary Referral Management (AHFIRM)

Mrs Angela Mucic1, Mrs Prue Deckert1

1Western Health, St Albans, Australia

Background: An inpatient referral audit conducted in 2017 at a metropolitan public health service found that 43% of allied health referrals were inadequate and did not allow prioritisation, equating to 2.3EFT. Allied health has a growing presence at the top tiers of health service leadership, however there is opportunity to build its leadership presence at the ward level.

Aim: The primary aim of this project was to determine if enhanced allied health leadership at ward level improves referral process efficacy. The secondary aim was to determine if the introduction of AHFIRM improved ward staff members perception of multidisciplinary team work.

Method: AHFIRM positions were advertised to Grade 2 and 3 allied health staff members internally. There was no new EFT. The role description for the AHFIRM role was based on the following three pillars:

  • Access and flow, through proactive allied health referral management;
  • Interdisciplinary communication, through a single point of contact
  • Allied health leadership presence at ward level, through influence and advocacy.

The successful applicants were provided with education in referral reasoning and prioritisation criteria for each allied health discipline, and in interdisciplinary leadership.

Results: A pre implementation referral audit found that 43% of referrals to inpatient allied health were incomplete and did not allow prioritisation. A follow up audit will be completed in June 2019. Early anecdotal results have shown a significant improvement in the quality of referrals into General Medicine. A pre implementation survey aimed to capture all inpatient ward staff perceptions of multidisciplinary teamwork and leadership at ward level. The survey found that 37% of respondents were not sure which allied health ward staff member could act in a leadership capacity, and respondents believed improved allied health leadership would benefit patient access.  A follow up survey will be completed in June 2019. AHFIRM staff created duties statements specific to their ward. Clear themes were identified across duty statements.

Discussion: Allied health leadership in inpatient referral management may improve access and flow. This study provides a model for delivery of shared ward based leadership, without additional funding.


Angela is the Allied Health Education Lead for Workforce at Western Health.  Angela’s interest is in developing structures and processes that nurture the building of leadership capacity among allied health clinical and the ground level.

Angela trained as a physiotherapist graduating from Latrobe University in 2002 with First Class Honours. She completed a Masters of Business Administration with a double major in health service management and knowledge management.

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