Tell us about your project.

Dr Anne Harrison: This research project will investigate the lack of engagement of admitted patients and carers with the REACH (Recognise, Engage, Act, Call, Help) inpatient/carer-activated, escalation process for concerns about inpatient clinical care or health status.

This patient/carer escalation process is important because research suggests that empowering patients, families/carers to engage and partner with health professionals may help in earlier identification of deterioration and improved outcomes. Partnering with consumers also links to, and underpins, several of the National Standards (NSQHS). Therefore the aim of this research is to explore and gain an in-depth understanding of the attitudes and perceptions (barriers and enablers) of patients and their family/carers toward the REACH – Patient, family/carer-activated, escalation process to inform improvement of the current process.

This consumer-informed research will partner with patients and their families/carers through interviews and/or focus groups to identify barriers and enablers to the uptake of the REACH clinical escalation process. This will inform us about their lived experience and needs regarding the REACH process, including what information, when and in what format/mode they need this information. It is also planned to conduct surveys or focus groups with staff to understand stakeholder barriers and enablers to address other system issues.

The outcome will be the identification of evidence-informed improvements in the process that address barriers and optimise enablers to facilitate better patient and family/carer uptake of, and engagement with the REACH process. The impact of consumer involvement will be ensuring relevance to their needs and a solution that is evidence-based, practical and realistic to those with whom we aim to engage.

Why is Dr Anne Harrison’s project important to Mercy Health, and how will it improve healthcare?

Professor Stephen Tong: We thrilled that Anne has received this important fellowship to kickstart her academic career.

Dr Harrison’s research project is timely in light of efforts to bridge the yawning gap between consumer engagement and medical care.

The REACH system was designed for admitted patients to call for help. Her work will glean critical insights to cast aside unknown barriers that are preventing patients from using it.

As a result of her work, we may be able to improve the system, making Mercy Health an even safer place for those we provide care to.

Why is health services research important to your organisation?

Prof Tong: Health services research is important to Mercy Health, and indeed all health organisations, because the questions often asked are those that are immediately important in informing better care at the coalface.

Anne’s proposed research will certainly do this.

Is there anything else would you like to share about this project?

Prof Tong: This is an important initiative from MACH. Clinician academics are rare, especially those from allied health. Furthermore, the gulf to starting an academic career for any newly minted clinical PhD students can be worryingly wide.

Anne has come out of a highly impressive PhD. This Fellowship provides Dr Harrison the opportunity to land her feet, and to get on track for an enduring academic career in allied health research.