Originally intending to fund two $25,000 projects, SHP expanded the inaugural grant scheme due to the high quality of applications.

“We were taken aback by the strength of the research proposals,” said Professor Don Nutbeam, SHP Senior Advisor and Steering Committee Chair for Implementation Science.  “It was clear once we started receiving applications that we would need to fund more than two projects.”

The grants will support collaborative teams of researchers and clinicians who are examining ways to fast-track healthcare innovations into routine clinical practice, ensuring that patients receive the highest quality evidence-based care.

“It’s given us a fantastic insight into the appetite for Implementation Science research and demonstrates a willingness for clinicians to engage with the theories and frameworks of implementation science,” he said.

The projects funded cover a range of clinical areas, including improving care for those with musculoskeletal disorders, testing new screening mechanisms for chemotherapy-related nerve damage in clinical practice, and incorporating automatic reporting of medication side effects into electronic medical records (eMR).

“The emphasis of this program is funding projects where we already have evidence of the clinical effectiveness, but where further research is needed to determine how best to implement this evidence into clinical care,” said Dr Nicole Rankin, Director of Sydney Health Partners’ Implementation Science Program.

“A great deal of research funds is spent on the former, but not as much on the latter. By providing funding to projects at this key intersection of the research cycle, Sydney Health Partners aims to make a real difference to health care and patient outcomes.”

The BOOST project, led by the University of Sydney’s Associate Professor Alison Harmer and Clinical Lecturer Marie March, who is also a Physiotherapist at Blacktown Mt Druitt Hospitals, has received a grant to investigate how hospitals can deliver more frequent exercise programs for inpatients with hip fracture, using physiotherapists in conjunction with alternative healthcare workers.

“We know that more frequent post-operative physiotherapy decreases length of hospital stay and improves a patient’s mobility – but the lack of availability of physios in many hospitals means this can’t be delivered adequately,” said Associate Professor Harmer and Ms March. “We’ll be looking at how the existing non-physiotherapy workforce can be used to deliver high-quality post-operative exercise.”

The program will be trialled in hip fracture services at Northern Sydney Local Health District and Western Sydney Local Health District, where it will be evaluated using a variety of methods - including patient outcomes, cost and experience.

Another project is investigating how to improve screening for chemotherapy-induced peripheral neurotoxicity (CIPN) – a type of progressive nerve damage that can be a side effect of chemotherapy, often causing patients to stop treatment and sometimes causing long-term disability. 

‘Currently, screening for CIPN isn’t consistent across hospitals, and what screening is done in practice is widely considered to be inadequate,” says Susanna Park, Associate Professor in Physiology at the University of Sydney School of Medical Sciences, who is leading the project with Associate Professor Peter Grimison, Staff Specialist in Medical Oncology at Chris O’Brien Lifehouse.

The team will test how feasible it is for oncology nurses to deliver an already established questionnaire that screens for CIPN in a pilot study at Chris O’Brien Lifehouse, Royal Prince Alfred and Prince of Wales Hospitals. They will use this evidence to develop a clinical pathway that can be adapted and scaled up to use across hospitals

Dr Ron Castelino, Clinical Pharmacist at Blacktown Mt Druitt Hospital, and Kate Curtis, Professor of Emergency and Trauma Nursing at Sydney Nursing School, have received a grant to test the implementation of electronic reporting of adverse drug reactions within the existing eMR at Blacktown Hospital.

"When a health care professional adds an adverse drug reaction into the eMR, the system will generate an automatic reminder to submit a form and will pre-populatethe patient’s data from the eMR directly into the form,” said Dr Castelino.

“But, of course, making the process easier for the healthcare practitioner doesn’t mean they’ll actually use it – so we’re looking at the behavioural enablers and barriers within the clinical environment to make sure it’s taken up.” Currently only 10% of adverse drug reactions are reported by the hospitals to the TGA, in part due to the largely manual and time-consuming nature of the process. The team are aiming to improve both the quality and quantity of reports submitted with this new process.

Andrew Wood, Physiotherapist and Osteoarthritis Chronic Care Program Coordinator at Canterbury Hospital and Dr Marina Pinheiro, NHMRC Early Career Fellow at the University of Sydney School of Public Health, are using their grant to support patients to maintain participation in exercise programs following diagnosis with osteoarthritis.

“It’s so important to keep patients participating in exercise, but many of our exercise programs run for a finite period of time and patients struggle to keep exercising after they’ve been discharged, ultimately losing any gains they’ve made” said Mr Wood.

The team will be working collaboratively with local community-based exercise opportunities to ease this transition for patients – moving post-hospital care into a community environment.

“This means that patients can keep exercising in an environment their familiar with, and their clinicians can be reassured of the quality of any subsequent exercise programs,” said Mr Wood.

The SHP grants are expected to help teams build translational research foundations that will lead to longer-term impacts on health services and policy – and may help project teams apply for larger grants via other funding schemes, such as the Commonwealth’s Medical Research Future Fund and the New South Wales Translational Research Grants Scheme, in the future.

Funding for the research has commenced, and the projects and the projects are due for completion by August 2022.