Public Lecture Discusses Evidence-Based Practice for Allied Health Care
The significance of evidence-based practice for allied health care professionals was recently discussed at a stimulating public lecture delivered at UKZN by University of South Australia’s Professor Karen Grimmer.
Grimmer, the inaugural Director of the International Centre for Allied Health Evidence (iCAHE) at Unisa, was invited by Pharmaceutical Sciences’ Associate Professor Fatima Suleman.
She engaged academic leaders, and seasoned and novice researchers at UKZN about the iCAHE’s on-going research; relating it to the South African context, and highlighting opportunities for collaboration.
Grimmer presented and discussed the theory of evidence-based practice in terms of aspirational evidence-informed application and uptake of effective allied health care. She also recommended ways in which allied health researchers, policy-makers, clinicians, educators, consumers and funders could engage.
She said allied Health Care includes physiotherapy, occupational therapy, podiatry, speech pathology, dietetics, nutrition and medical radiation and involves radiographers, sonographers, audiologists, laboratory technicians and medical physicists. Pharmacists, social workers and psychologists were also on the list.
Among the challenges faced by Allied Health, according to Grimmer, was an overlap in tasks, professional definitions, competencies and outcome measures – all of which set up internal competition and clouded departments of health from allocating adequate funding to support their functions.
Allied Health was said to be a key component for holistic care for patients in addition to the work done by doctors and nursing. Allied health care to patients included assessment, diagnosis, treatment, counselling, education, manufacturing, and organisation.
Her passion for epidemiology (the study of the distribution and determinants of health-related states or events, including disease), and the application of this study to the control of diseases and other health problems, inspired her advocacy for Allied Health care.
‘Most allied health activity deals with morbidity, not mortality. It doesn’t “talk” the same epidemiological language as medicine.’
She said essential for allied health care professionals was the integration of best research evidence with clinical expertise and patient values which optimise clinical health outcomes and recognise patient choices.
The way to go was to produce persuasive, integrated research and clinical evidence of service effectiveness and then present this as a credible evidence-informed, united, collective voice at healthcare policy and funding discussions.
According to Grimmer, expensive, avoidable tertiary care would be reduced if allied health care professionals succeeded with evidence-based practice. She encouraged the identification of priority questions which, if answered well, could reduce barriers to Allied Health engagement, effectiveness, and collegiality within the broader healthcare arena.
‘Foster multidisciplinary partnerships that showcase and value effective allied health engagement in management of priority health conditions, in partnership with medicine and nursing,’ she advised, also lobbying for the promotion of Allied Health care and outcomes in terms of long-term cost savings.
The Dean and Head of UKZN’s School Health Sciences, Professor Mahmoud Soliman, was in the audience which enjoyed the topical discussion that followed Grimmer’s presentation.
Suleman said universities were pioneers of evidence-based practice through research. She said it was important to develop a model of care and outcomes by documenting the work that was being done at the university and in clinical practice.