Friday, 15 April 2016

Communiqué is key to transforming clinical practice in aged care

With an ever-increasing ageing population, the importance of improving the quality of health and aged care services is paramount. This year the Residential Aged Care Communiqué (RAC Communiqué) with an estimated readership of 30,000 people celebrates its tenth year of publication and has been credited with changing clinical practices in aged care according to latest findings.

New research from the Department of Forensic Medicine (DFM) at SPHPM has found that printed educational material (PEM) positively impacts on aged care professional practices in Australia.

The study, published in the Journal of Continuing Education in the Health Professions, focuses on the impact of the RAC Communiqué, a quarterly electronic publication produced by DFM and the Victorian Institute of Forensic Medicine (VIFM) on preventable deaths in residential aged care facilities.

“Our research found that more than half of the RAC Communiqué subscribers reported a change in practice, highlighting its impact and efficacy as a PEM,” said co-author Professor Joseph Ibrahim, an expert in geriatric medicine from DFM in SPHPM.

“To the best of my knowledge, there have been no reports, either here or internationally; apart from our own, of a PEM alone changing professional practice to this extent in the aged-care sector. More than half of our survey respondents reported that a practice change occurred as a result of reading the RAC Communiqué, this is an exceptional outcome,” said Professor Ibrahim.

Government estimates predict that by 2042, one quarter of the Australian population will be 65 years or older, and an increasing proportion of this population will live in nursing homes or aged-care accommodation, emphasising the importance of aged care and geriatric medicine.

Each edition of the RAC Communiqué focuses on a single theme relevant to clinicians and care staff in aged care. It details case summaries from deaths reported to the Coroners Court to engage the reader, with commentaries from a recognised expert to provide the relevant information about optimal clinical practice. There are also electronic references to key national and international resources.

The study also highlights appeal of the RAC Communiqué with 84.4 per cent subscribed for more than one year, and a very high readership, with 91.7 per cent having read all or most issues.

Approximately one in five respondents reported that the practice change in their workplace would not have occurred had they not read the RAC Communiqué.

Professor Ibrahim said the study proves that PEMs can still play a viable role in promoting practice change. He added that they have the opportunity to be particularly successful if, like the RAC Communiqué, they take a patient-centred approach which resonates better with readers and are aided by the use of narratives.

“It is undeniable that evidence-based medicine plays an integral role in shaping clinical practice, however a more patient-centred approach may be more relatable and memorable to many health professionals in improving their care,” said Professor Ibrahim.

“The findings from this study along with our previous studies are important because they support the usage of PEMs and, of case narratives in the health care industry, particularly in the aged-care sector.”

Professor Ibrahim and his team have now completed four separate evaluations that unequivocally demonstrate the impact of this publication on improving residential aged care practice, which has implications for promoting future practice changes, as PEMS are low cost and have the ability to reach a wide audience. Professor Ibrahim also acknowledged the long standing support and commitment of the Ageing and Aged Care Branch, Department of Health and Human Services of Victoria in supporting the production of the RAC Communiqué for the past 10 years.

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