Bridging Allied Health Professional Roles to Improve Patient Outcomes in Rural and Remote Australia

Ms Selina Taylor1, Ms Sophie Harris1, Ms Rebecca Senini1, Ms Rebecca  Stephenson1, Ms Selina Taylor1,2, Professor Beverley Glass1

1James Cook University, Townsville, Australia, 2Centre for Rural and Remote Heath, Mount Isa, Australia

Australia’s rural and remote populations experience inequality of access to healthcare, compared to their metropolitan counterparts, primarily due to the maldistribution of the health workforce throughout Australia.  Throughout small rural communities, demand is often not aligned with the capacity to deliver services through hospitals, clinical practices and permanent practitioners. Strategies which may overcome barriers around access to adequate healthcare, including implementation of interdisciplinary collaborative teams have been identified as a successful approach. This study thus aimed to explore interdisciplinary allied health collaborative practice in a rural community. A descriptive qualitative study with a phenomenological and ethnographic lens for rural culture was conducted. Data were collected through thirty semi-structured interviews with physiotherapists, occupational therapists, speech pathologists and dieticians/public health nutritionists in rural locations to explore interdisciplinary collaboration with pharmacists in rural practice.  Role theory was used to describe behaviours, characteristics, norms and values of a person or position and was applied to explore role perceptions. Thematic analysis, using the framework method, was employed to identify themes. Patterns emerging from conducted interviews have highlighted that; overall, the allied health professionals perceived collaboration with a pharmacist to be useful in providing improved care for their patients. However, there was a lack of clarity around the role of the pharmacist, attributed mainly to lack of contact. In conclusion, this study will inform greater understanding of the potential role of a pharmacists within multidisciplinary allied health teams, providing opportunities to bridge interprofessional roles to improve patient outcomes especially in rural and remote communities.


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