Speech pathology service enhancement for people with head and neck cancer living in regional and remote areas: Using a concept mapping approach to inform service change

Mrs Jasmine Foley2, Prof. Elizabeth Ward1,2, Dr Laurelie Wishart1,2, Dr Clare Burns2,3, Dr Rebecca Nund2, Mrs Nicky Graham6, Mr Corey Patterson4, Mrs Amy Ashley4, Mrs  Julie Fink4, Mrs Emily Tiavaasue5, Mrs Wendy Comben4

1Centre for Functioning and Health Research, Metro South Health, Queensland Health, Brisbane, Australia, 2School of Health & Rehabilitation Sciences, The University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia, 3Speech Pathology, Royal Brisbane Hospital, Metro North HHS, Brisbane, Australia, 4Speech Pathology, Townsville Hospital, Townsville HHS, Townsville, Australia, 5Speech Pathology, Mt Isa Hospital, North West HHS, Mt Isa, Australia, 6Speech Pathology, Wondai Hospital, Childrens Health Queensland HHS, Wondai, Australia

Background: People with head and neck cancer (HNC) engage with speech pathology (SP) services across the continuum of care. However, there are issues with service access for those living in non-metropolitan areas. Understanding the issues impacting local service delivery is needed to inform change and enhance access to local SP services.

Aims: To determine actions needed to enhance delivery of SP services for people with HNC living in regional and remote areas using a concept mapping methodology.

Methods and Procedures: Concept mapping is a mixed methods approach that involves aggregating stakeholder perspectives to then prioritise actions for change. Ten service providers from 4 sites across a regional/remote service region participated in brainstorming sessions to generate statements regarding SP service improvement and rate theses on importance and changeability. Multivariate statistical analysis and multi-dimensional scaling were used to develop cluster maps and establish a final set of prioritised actions for change.

Results: Issues raised by the regional service providers were more varied and had an organisational focus such as the need for logistical support, infrastructure and service structure. Remote providers identified access issues as central to many of the themes. Overall, 30 actionable goals were identified within the go-zone, such as “Local services require upskilling to provide ongoing management and care”.

Conclusions: Using a concept mapping methodology, actionable changes to were identified to improve access to SP HNC services locally.  These prioritised goals will assist in informing targeted change to improve services for people with HNC living in regional and remote areas.


Professor Liz Ward is the Director of the Centre for Functioning and Health Research in Metro South Health and a conjoint professor at The University of Queensland. Prof Ward is a leading international researcher with specific interests in new models of care and research that achieves service change.

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