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PhD to discover what is most important to patients in new model of care

Gold Coast Health dietitian Rumbi Mutsekwa spent as long as she could avoiding doing a PhD, but the task eventually caught up with her.

Rumbi and her colleagues were looking for a way to evaluate a new model of care for Gold Coast Health – the Dietitian First Gastroenterology Clinic – when they realised there was a gap in frameworks to measure the value of the service.

In the clinic, dietitians see lower risk category two patients suffering symptoms such as constipation and diarrhea with oversight from a consultant gastroenterologist. This has helped reduce wait times for these patients.

“One of the things we were really keen on right from the onset was to evaluate the service really well, not only looking at the numbers,  but also looking at patient outcomes, safety,  what it looked like from a cost perspective to the health service and to the tax-payer?” Rumbi said.

“We wanted to answer questions such as; when patients are seen at the clinic, do they come and back and how does that compare to the traditional models of care? How do we know this is what the patients want and how to do you know it’s beneficial?

“We thought, surely other people have developed some framework or roadmap to evaluate these models of care, but we found they were not being evaluated as robustly as they could be.”

To fill the gap, Rumbidzai has embarked on a PhD working with her supervisory team from Gold Coast Health and Centre of Applied Health Economics at Griffith University; to develop those frameworks so anyone setting up a similar model of expanded scope of practice, even beyond dietetics, would be able to evaluate it. 

After successfully applying for the Gold Coast Collaborative Research Grant, Rumbi has been able to work part-time on her PhD  to expand this work and hopes to have it finished in the next couple of years

Interviews with patients are currently underway. She will then move on to collecting insights from different stakeholders from several hospital and health services in Queensland to get their  perspective and understand their experiences.

“From the patient interviews,  we are finding that what matters most to patients is the really personable things. People really want someone who cares and listens, they want reassurance that they are going to be okay, they want strategies to help them manage their concerns in a timely manner because they know if they are waiting for too long then there’s some anxiety around that,” she said.

Last updated 02 Feb 2021