Thinking outside the box: Allied health professionals inter-disciplinary experience of delivering a home-based program targeting elderly patients discharged from the Emergency Department

Dr Sue Fitzpatrick1, Mr Patrick Brown1, Kate Andersen1

1Illawarra Shoalhaven Local Health District, Wollongong, Australia

Background/ Objectives
Risk of hospital-acquired adverse health outcomes has prompted efforts to avoid unnecessary hospital admission in older patients (Pritchard et. al, 2020). The use of allied health teams to facilitate safe hospital discharge and management in the community is one of many strategies employed to achieve this aim. Interdisciplinary teams, where members share skills and work collaboratively, have been advocated to address the complex health needs of elderly patients. The aim of this study was to evaluate the interdisciplinary experience of such a team. The Quick Access Response Team (QuART) began as a pilot in the second half of 2020, operating from two sites within ISLHD. This team provides a short intensive two-week allied health intervention to elderly patients (≥ 65 years) in their homes, with the aim of avoiding admission.

Methods
A longitudinal (six month) qualitative study utilizing focus groups and survey, was used to gain a more complete understanding of the allied health interdisciplinary experience. The QuART team comprised six allied health disciplines, used a single shared initial assessment form and completed sixteen interdisciplinary allied health competencies over the course of the pilot. Focus group data was analyzed thematically, and survey data and member checking were used to increase confidence in the trustworthiness of findings.

Results
Descriptive interpretation of the focus group data presents evidence of a marked softening of interdisciplinary boundaries among QuART team members over the course of the pilot. Identified themes that contributed to this culture shift included increased familiarity with the work, training in interdisciplinary competencies, improved team processes and good leadership. This qualitative analysis provides evidence that softening of interdisciplinary boundaries provided confidence and permission for these clinicians to ‘think outside their discipline box’.

Conclusion
This study supports the implementation of similar interdisciplinary models of allied health care in this patient group.


Biography:

Dr Sue Fitzpatrick is the Executive Director of Allied Health for the Illawarra Shoalhaven Local Health District. She is a certified practicing speech pathologist who completed a Doctor of Health Science in 2016 in the creation of an allied-health clinical supervision framework for evaluating and implementing clinical supervision for organizations, clinical leaders or individual health professionals. This Frameworks facilitates co-creation of collaborative clinical-supervision policy based on the needs of the participants, which is an important understanding for policy-makers. Dr Fitzpatrick has attained a broad healthcare experience through a wide range of senior leadership experiences and her current research focus extends to understanding the value of allied health across the healthcare environment.

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