Results for Staff Specialist


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 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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Examining the effectiveness of Brown snake antivenom

The amount of Brown snake antivenom required to properly neutralise the venom delivered in a brown snake bite remains controversial. Using appropriate amounts reduces the risks and side effects of antivenom, while optimising its positive effects. One of the major clinical symptoms of Brown snake bite is massive bleeding. We aim to use a novel method for analysis of blood clotting (the ROTEM analyser) to study the effects of Brown snake venom on blood clotting and how different doses of antivenom affect this. This information may enable us to develop a simple point of care test to determine the optimal dose of antivenom to be given, reducing the amount of antivenom needed, the length of hospital stay, and therefore overall cost of snake bite management.

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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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Single centre validation of the Canadian Syncope Risk Score

Syncope is a transient loss of consciousness with full recovery, and is a common presenting problem to the emergency department (ED). Most patients presenting with syncope have a benign cause, but others may be at risk for serious adverse outcomes. The problem is that there is currently no validated tool for knowing which patients are at risk and which can be safely discharged. Several clinical prediction rules have been developed over the years, however the sensitivity and specificity of these rules vary. This has led to an over-admission of patients who could otherwise be safely discharged, based on clinician discretion. These patients are subjected to multiple tests, including cardiac telemetry for monitoring which not only has low yield, but also results in significant costs to the healthcare system.

The Canadian Syncope Risk Score (CSRS) is the latest decision tool developed in an attempt to predict serious outcomes in patients presenting with syncope to the ED, but it has not yet been validated. This study aims to validate the CSRS at a single site, providing the first step in guiding clinicians to make better risk assessments and disposition decisions for patients with syncope. Furthermore, an innovative economic model will assess the impact of this decision tool on the healthcare system. This project is the first, critical phase toward better informed decision-making by clinicians for patients with syncope. Ultimately, this tool will enable a change to clinical practice that will result in improved patient outcomes and enhanced, targeted healthcare delivery.

Pictured to the right: Members of the Syncope research team from left to right: Ms Helena Cooney, Dr Alan Yan, Dr Jason Chan, Dr Emma Ballard (QIMR), Dr Jonathan Hunter and Dr David Brain (AusHSI)

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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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How are we treating severe childhood asthma in Australasia?

Most children with asthma presenting to an emergency department (ED) are managed with inhaled medications and oral steroids. Infrequently, some children are very unwell, and require assistance with their breathing, or intravenous medication Currently, there is minimal information to guide clinicians on which treatment to choose for severe acute asthma. All have side-effects, and we do not know which is most effective. Studies from the UK and Australasia demonstrate significant variation in practice, although Australasian data is nearly 10 years out of date. When comparing treatments, it is important to determine whether or not they can reduce the risk of severe complications, or whether they make a difference in important treatment outcomes.

This project will allow us to determine current management practices for children with severe acute asthma and/or wheeze; how common severe acute asthma is and also how frequently complications of severe asthma occur; and understand where differences in therapy exist between states/regions. We will be looking at sites across Australia and New Zealand. Once complete, this project will provide important data to allow us to design future research to establish the best treatments for severe asthma.

EMF is funding the Queensland sites taking part in this Australasian trial. This study is being run by the PREDICT network. The Chief Investigatory is A/Prof Simon Craig. The study will include 18,000 children aged 1 – 18 years treated for asthma in the ED.

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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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Randomised controlled trial of two antidote regimens for paracetamol overdose

Paracetamol is the commonest medications taken in overdose and is the leading cause of acute liver failure in the developed world. The antidote, acetylcysteine, which replenishes liver glutathione was developed in the 1970’s. However the regimen (20 hours duration) was never subjected to either a randomised controlled trial or any dose ranging studies. The regimen gives a large loading dose and the remainder of the infusion (20 hours) is given to mirror the time taken for paracetamol to be cleared by the liver. This time is only an average and depends on the degree of liver damage. For normal livers it is much shorter (12 hours).

The aim of the study is to compare acetylcysteine given over 20 hours compared to 12 hours for patients presenting early with paracetamol overdose to see if it provides the same protection against liver damage. The research design will be a multicentre non inferiority per protocol unblinded randomised controlled trial of a 20 hour versus a 12 hour regimen of acetylcysteine in paracetamol overdose. The study will be undertaken at the Princes Alexandra, Calvary Mater Newcastle and Prince of Wales hospitals. Eligible patients will be paracetamol overdoses less than 30g presenting within 8 hours of ingestion.

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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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