Identifying research priorities to optimise Allied Health care – informed by consumers

Associate Professor Anna Wong Shee1,2, Dr Renee Clapham1,2, Associate Professor Vincent Versace2, Associate Professor Kevin  McNamara2, Dr Anna Ugalde2, Dr Jaithri Ananthapavan2, Dr John Aitken4, Dr Alex  Donaldson3

1Ballarat Health Services, Ballarat, Australia, 2Deakin University, Black Hill, Australia, 3LaTrobe University, Melbourne, Australia, 4Rural Northwest Health, Warracknabeal, Australia

Background: In public health service research, it is essential that research questions are important to patients and align with the interests, needs, and values of the community. There is often a mismatch between the work carried out by academic researchers and the priorities of people living in rural and regional communities and clinicians who serve these communities. There has not been a systematic approach involving consumers, clinicians and researchers in identifying research priorities for allied health practice. Consultation and clear priorities are needed in rural and regional areas to address the health inequities that exist due to geographical, socioeconomic, and workforce issues. This study involves engaging with consumers to identify areas for improvement based on their experiences and is part of a larger project focusing on identifying research priorities to optimise allied health care.

Aim: To understand people’s experiences of health care in rural and regional Victoria, their perceptions of service gaps and their views on priority setting.

Methods: Surveys and focus groups will be used to gain an understanding of people’s experiences of allied health care, perceptions of service gaps and ways to improve health care, and the values/criteria to be used to prioritise areas for improvement. Two researchers will independently analyse the transcriptions using thematic analysis guided by Braun and Clarke’s approach: familiarisation with the data; generating initial codes; search for themes; review themes; define and name themes; and produce a report.

Results: Survey and focus group sessions results in relation to: (1) people’s experiences of allied health care, their perceptions of service gaps, and ways to improve care; and (2) the criteria communities consider important for priority setting in health care, will be presented.

Significance: The information from this study will provide critical information for the second phase of this project. Phase 2 will use a modified Delphi method, that brings together community members, clinicians, service managers and researchers, to identify and agree on allied health research priorities. The voice of the community will help ensure the relevance of health research, facilitate the translation of research findings into practice and ultimately improve patient outcomes.


Anna Wong Shee is a registered Physiotherapist who completed her PhD in 2013. Anna holds a conjoint position with Deakin University and Ballarat Health Services (BHS).  Anna’s role as a Associate Professor of Allied Health is to develop Allied Health research capacity and capability at BHS and in the Grampians region.

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