Results for Health System and Governance


Developing a regional strategy for reducing non-urgent emergency department presentations

Many people who attend hospital emergency departments (EDs) are triaged as having non-urgent concerns, which could be managed by other health services such as the GP. The way regional health services are designed can contribute to the rate of non-urgent presentations in EDs. The impact of non-urgent patients in EDs can result in crowding, ambulance diversion and access block, which are linked to poorer patient outcomes, increased morbidity and staff burnout. While some recognition of this problem exists nationally, many policies or strategies implemented to reduce the incidence of these presentations have not been evidence-based, effective or economically evaluated. We aim to develop a draft regional strategy for reducing non-urgent presentations in emergency.

Prior research on this project was funded by La Trobe University ($20,000), the Clifford Craig Medical Research Trust ($5000) and a University of Tasmania Scholarship ($5000).

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Dermatology in the Emergency Department

Patients presenting to the Princess Alexandra Hospital Emergency Department with dermatological conditions present a significant demand on resources. It is estimated that in many Emergency Departments (ED) at least one in 25 patients present with a skin condition. Many dermatological presentations may be better managed in an alternative environment either because they are non-urgent or require more specialised and expert care. This project aims to better understand the presentation of skin conditions to a large adult Queensland ED. The research will describe the current diagnosis and management of this cohort to the ED, assess the resource implications and understand the rationale for the patients attending ED instead of a General Practice clinic. The data will provide the information for determining the need for increased GP support such a expansion of tele-dermatology services or for the creation of a local or district acute dermatology clinic.

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The impact of imaging referral guidelines on unnecessary x-ray examinations

In this project, the research team is investigating the effect, on x-ray request justification, of educating referrers and radiology staff on the existence and use of the Government of Western Australia’s Diagnostic Imaging Pathways. The project aims to improve clinical information provided on medical imaging requests, to assist in the assessment of justification, and reduce the number of unjustified examinations being performed. The expected impact of this project is in the removal of unnecessary x-ray examinations which provide little or no benefit to the patient. This will also have a benefit of reduced radiation exposure to patients and improved access to x-ray services for patients with a genuine need for the examination as well as a financial saving due to reduced costs for the delivery of emergency healthcare.

Up to 77% of diagnostic medical imaging examinations are considered inappropriate or unnecessary, according to prior research. Inappropriate examinations contribute to an individual’s lifetime radiation exposure, unduly increase healthcare costs, and reduce the access to x-ray services due to longer waiting times. Many countries, including Australia, have introduced imaging referral guidelines which provide referrers with evidence-based decision tools to select appropriate examinations. Use of these guidelines has significantly reduced the rate of referral without affecting the detection rate of pathology.

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Reducing avoidable COPD emergency presentations: An integrated cross-health service initiative

Almost 3% of consumers of healthcare services in the Darling Downs, West Moreton and Gold Coast (Including Robina) regions are estimated to have Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD); which is somewhat higher than the state average of 2.4%. COPD is the second leading cause of avoidable hospital admissions. Anecdotal evidence indicates continued over-utilisation of frontline resources (e.g., Emergency Department [ED]), and potential gaps in outreach services (e.g. underutilised services).

This project will inform the implementation and evaluation of referral treatment initiatives (e.g., anxiety management, smoking cessation referral, and quality intra-professional care [IPC] programs), based on identified causal factors.

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Medication-related emergency department presentations

In Australia, medication errors result in more than 400,000 visits to general practitioners per year, however the number of patients who present to hospital due to medication-related harm is unclear. Previous Australian and international research suggests that at least 2% of emergency department (ED) presentations are due to medication-related harm and up to one quarter of those patients require admission to hospital. Importantly, the majority of such presentations are potentially preventable, which means that interventions that target medication safety in the community and adverse events that result in ED presentations could improve patient safety and quality of life, and reduce the burden on emergency and acute health services. Before we can target strategies designed to reduce medication-related harm in the community that results in patients requiring care in the ED, we need to understand how commonly this occurs, and which patients are at higher risk of possible harm. In this study we will determine how common this problem is, the characteristics of the events and the patients in whom medication-related harm occurs, and also estimate the health service costs of medication-related ED presentations.

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Evaluation of the Geriatric Emergency Department Intervention (GEDI) implementation

Advances in health have led to populations living longer with more chronic disease and frailty. Frail older people presenting to emergency departments (EDs) have special needs that are often overlooked. In response, the innovative Geriatric Emergency Department Intervention (GEDI) was developed by clinicians at Nambour Hospital, Queensland.

GEDI is a unique nurse-led, physician-championed model of service delivery which facilitates advanced assessment tailored to the individual, nurse-initiated specialist referral, fast-tracking of care through the ED and appropriate safe discharge planning for persons aged 70 and over, including those from residential aged care facilities. A successful trial in one ED was awarded the 2016 Queensland Premier’s Award for Excellence. The evaluative research we conducted found that when older adults presented to ED during the times the GEDI team was working they were more likely to be discharged, if admitted they spent, on average, 24 hours less in hospital and the costs of their care were reduced by up to 30%.

The staffing for a trial of GEDI in two further Queensland EDs will be funded by the Queensland Health Improvement Unit. This EMF-funded evaluation project employs the principles of implementation science to evaluate the introduction of GEDI into these EDs to determine whether the knowledge learned from the trial can be translated to other sites and to determine the best strategies for future implementations of GEDI across Queensland and interstate. If implementation is found to be successful future roll out of GEDI will improve patient outcomes and reduce costs in Queensland and across the country.

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Data linkage & patient outcome study: Aeromedical services in Central Queensland

The development of linked data from aeromedical retrieval & health system databases will provide improved, value-added insights to patient care and outcome analysis. This first-of-its-kind study seeks to take the next step in patient-centered outcomes research and resource allocation planning by linking together existing, but independent emergency department, aeromedical, hospital and death databases. Our pilot study has linked databases, creating secure & robust infrastructure for future state-wide studies.

The aims of the study are:
a) Utilise the linked data infrastructure that we’ve created, allowing next phase state-wide replication; describe aeromedical patient outcomes (including length of stay and mortality); understand aeromedical service requirements for specific illness/ injury, those that require frequent flights, & identify steps within the patient journey.
b) Develop a better understanding of the aeromedical patient journey will help to develop appropriate health services delivery, in particular emergency departments whom most often are first point-of-service, thus ensuring better health outcomes.

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Domestic and family violence screening in the emergency department

Domestic and family violence (DFV) against women is the number one cause of hospitalisations in Australian girls and women aged 15-54 years. It is also the number one cause of death and disability in women aged 15 to 44. Although most victims of fatal DFV access health services in the 24 months prior to their deaths, many victims living with DFV go unnoticed in the community. Health care providers are well placed to identify DFV victims and refer them to appropriate services. The ED has been described as a good place to undertake identification of DFV victims in several published research papers. Yet, how to do this remains controversial, and there are no standard protocols in place in our EDs. In this project, we aim to describe the current DFV health practice culture in five Queensland EDs. Knowledge, beliefs, and attitudes, as well as what’s actually happening to detect cases of DFV, will be assessed among our front-line ED social workers, nurses, and doctors. We aim to determine how many presentations to ED are identified and referred to social worker services for DFV. Ultimately, this research will both raise awareness about the potential of the ED to detect DFV, and will help pave the way forward to a well-informed and structured ED DFV screening program for Queensland, with applicability internationally.

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Link between clinical errors and emergency shift patterns

There is a well-established link between shift work, nurse exhaustion and clinical errors. However there is a lack of research focusing specifically on Emergency Departments (ED) and nurse rostering patterns.

ED nurses are at particular risk of fatigue due to the fast-paced and demanding nature of the work environment caring for high acuity patients, increasing the risk of clinical errors and threatening patient safety. Shift work in the ED is an around-the-clock occupation, frequently nurses are required to commence work at 07:00 on the morning following a 21:30 finish, a shift pattern termed a “late/early”. Understanding the impact that this shift pattern may have in adverse clinical events is critical for patient and staff well-being.

This novel project will collect and analyse retrospective data from the ED at Nambour General Hospital to ascertain whether late/earlies are associated with adverse patient outcomes. We will use a logistic regression model to analyse data collected from PRIME (electronic database for clinical incident reporting), TrendCare (online nurse rostering system), EDIS (Emergency Department Information System) and patient medical records. This analysis will allow us to identify any association between clinical incident severity rating, patient outcomes, time of the incident, staff roster patterns and level of nursing experience.

The results of this study will therefore provide significant insights into the relationship between ED nurse shift patterns and adverse clinical events. The outcomes of this research may be used to assist and improve rostering practices, fatigue management, staff well being, and improve patient safety outcomes.

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Prescribing patterns and communication for oxycodone on ED discharge

There are growing public health concerns that opioid medications are being increasingly and excessively prescribed. These medications may have a serious side effect profile including sedation, tolerance, and development of addiction, and may subsequently be diverted in the community for non-medical use.

The objective of this study is to evaluate the effectiveness of an intervention for discharge oxycodone prescribing relevant to Australian Emergency Departments. The principal aims are to decrease the amount of oxycodone prescribed, improve practitioner awareness of local opioid prescribing behaviour, and improve documentation around oxycodone use on discharge.

This quality assurance evaluation study will measure the success of a multifaceted oxycodone prescribing intervention and its impact on oxycodone prescribing for patients discharged home from the Emergency Department (ED). The project is hypothesized to reduce oxycodone prescribing, improve discharge documentation, and ensure appropriate follow up plans are in place.

Pain is a common symptom in ED patients, and is often the primary reason patients seek emergency medical attention. A recent baseline audit of local prescribing records revealed oxycodone, an opioid pain medication, is prescribed in approximately 5% of patients discharged home from this ED (with an annual census of 77,500 presentations). Clinical documentation and discharge communication was either absent, incomplete, or inconsistent when discharge plans for dosing, duration of therapy, follow-up reviews and de-escalation of therapy were analysed.

To our knowledge, no published Australian data is available on oxycodone prescribing behaviours from EDs. If this project is successful, the amount of oxycodone prescribed will reduce, patients will be better informed, and the quality of medical handover to General Practitioners will improve.

With 7.4 million patient presentations to Australian EDs in 2014-15, the successful translation of an oxycodone prescribing intervention through clinical awareness and action would contribute to reducing the overall burden of opioids in the broader community

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research projects

Improving jellyfish sting treatment

EMF funding is improving emergency care for the elderly

Trauma: better treatment for severe bleeding

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