Using a Community of Practice (CoP) model to expand allied health Telehealth services in an acute hospital setting

Prof Liisa Laakso1, Ms Rae Parker2, Ms Ann  Edwards2

1Mater Research, South Brisbane, Australia, 2Mater Health, South Brisbane, Australia

Background: Allied health telehealth services are a means of addressing multiple factors including reducing demand on outpatient services, and for improving continuity of care. To date, telehealth uptake and expansion has been problematic due to a range of barriers including access to health technologies by older patients, and acceptance by clinicians. We describe the implementation of a multidisciplinary Community of Practice model for increasing AH clinician capability in telehealth.

Methods: A CoP of interested allied health practitioners (users and non-users) and education and IT experts has been formed for the purpose of acquiring new skills, knowledge and evidence about telehealth, constructively critiquing current services, identifying enablers, implementing evidence and as quality improvement strategies for existing services with the overall aim of expanding use of telehealth. An appreciative inquiry approach has been adopted for the CoP, and the BetterEvaluation Rainbow framework underpins its evaluation strategy.

Discussion: The CoP model permits team members to engage in a process of collective learning to improve a shared undertaking; and we aim for CoP members to become leaders in telehealth implementation. Appreciative inquiry (AI) involves the art and practice of asking questions that strengthen a system’s capacity to anticipate and heighten positive potential. The benefit of AI in a CoP is that cognitive aspects of project design and implementation will be less constrained and more innovative. The Rainbow Framework consists of a series of questions in seven domains for guiding project implementation and evaluation; and the CoP will use the Rainbow Framework to evaluate existing telehealth services through 360⁰. We expect the CoP model will lead to the development of a robust evaluation framework that can be used to analyse the need for, benefits of and potential outcomes for future expansion of allied health telehealth services at the Mater without repeating costly errors of implementation.


Dr Liisa Laakso is Senior Research Fellow, Allied Health at the Mater in Brisbane where her primary role is to increase capability and capacity in health service research. Liisa is an Honorary Associate Professor at The University of Queensland, and Professor of Physiotherapy at Griffith University where she worked in full-time academe for more than 15 years before commencing at the Mater in January 2018.

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