Identifying research priorities to optimize allied health care: a modified Delphi study

Dr Anna Wong Shee1,2, Dr Renee Clapham5, Dr John Aitken3,4, Ms Jaithri Ananthapavan2, Dr Alex Donaldson4, A/Prof Kevin McNamara2, Dr Anna Ugalde2, A/Prof Vincent Versace2

1Ballarat Health Services, Ballarat, Australia, 2Deakin University, Warrnambool, Australia, 3Rural Northwest Health, Warracknabeal, Australia, 4La Trobe University, Bundoora, Australia, 5St Vincent’s Hospital, Melbourne, Australia

It is vital that health services research addresses issues that are both important to patients and meets health service needs or gaps. The aim of this study was to engage rural and regional communities, clinicians and academics to identify actionable health research priorities for translation into practice in the Grampians region.

The study phases included: (1) surveys and community forums to identify important health issues; (2) focus groups with consumers and health professionals to identify values considered important for determining priorities; (3) an innovative online concept mapping approach to engage stakeholder groups (consumers, health service professionals and researchers) to generate overarching themes from the identified health/healthcare issues and rate issues using the priority setting criteria; and (4) developing tractable research questions for the high-priority issues.

Overall, 117 community members and 70 health professionals identified 400 health/healthcare issues. Community forums identified issues related to access; costs; geographical, social and cultural isolation; and lack of services and suitably qualified health professionals in rural areas. Six focus groups (16 community members, 16 health professionals) identified three key values for prioritising health issues: equal access for equal need; effectiveness; and health impact (number of people affected).

Use of a consensus process for co-designing allied health research priorities will enhance the relevance of health research, facilitate adoption of research findings into practice and ultimately improve patient outcomes in the Grampians region. This project has given clinicians and consumers a voice and ownership over research decision-making and can drive a program of clinically important research.


A/Prof Anna Wong Shee holds a co-funded joint position with Ballarat Health Services and Deakin University. She is a registered Physiotherapist with over 20 years of experience in Australia and the USA.  Anna’s research interests include health professional research capacity and capability building, health services research, and health economic evaluations. Anna also has a broad expertise relating to allied health services and health service policy in regional Victoria.

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