Enhancing access to speech pathology communication services in an acute hospital setting via a delegation allied health assistant screening model

Mrs Kellie Preston1, Mrs Emma Lewis1, Ms Barbra Zupan2, Mrs Ashleigh Chant1, Ms Nara McDonald-Wilkinson1, Dr Joy Torrenueva1

1Central Queensland Hospital And Health Service, Rockhampton, Australia , 2Central Queensland University, Rockhampton, Australia

In Central Queensland (CQ), 56-73% of the aged population in acute hospital settings present with communication difficulties. However, limited resources and prioritisation of competing demands is restricting speech pathology (SP) staff from meeting their communication needs. This is despite evidence indicating that early identification and intervention of acquired communication disorders reduces negative health outcomes. This problem is expected to broaden by 2026 with the predicted 65% growth in the CQ aged population. To meet the needs of our aged patients now and into the future, alternative service delivery models need to be developed. The current model of practice, where only SPs can identify communication difficulties via a battery of time-consuming assessments, is inefficient. We propose this gap in service provision could met through delegation to allied health assistants (AHA) whose scope of practice includes screening.

There are 3 phases in this project: 1) Develop an effective and efficient functional communication screening tool, focusing on 6 key areas, that can be administered by a trained AHA; 2) Have the tool peer reviewed by academics, SPs, and AHAs; 3) Implement and evaluate accuracy in outcomes, inter-rater reliability between assessors, and overall effectiveness and cost efficiency of this delegated AHA communication screening workforce model.

Data collection is in progress. This presentation will discuss the design of the screener and the implementation model being used to evaluate the tool, including barriers and enablers experienced to date. Target recruitment is 192 participants on the acute and sub-acute wards of a regional hospital in CQ.


Kellie is a new researcher and the Director of Speech Pathology for Central Queensland Hospital and Health Service. Kellie graduated from the University of Newcastle in 2008 and has been working in adult clinical practice since this time, both in Australia and the United Kingdom.

As the Director of Speech Pathology, Kellie has experience in project and change management, as well as clinical leadership. She has fostered strong ties between CQHHS and CQU to deliver strong and sustainable clinical and research initiatives. Kellie is motivated to translate research into clinical practice to deliver high quality evidence based speech pathology services to Central Queenslanders.

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