Sydney Health Partners has awarded a total of $100,000 in pilot grants to support collaborative teams of researchers and clinicians to test the implementation of research innovation in clinical practice.

For the second year in a row, the SHP Implementation Science Grant program has provided pilot grants of approximately $25,000 to four projects: in-hospital education following heart attack, a student-led telerehabilitation program for head and neck cancer survivors, clinical integration of a digital psychosocial screening tool for adolescents and young adults, and an online mindfulness-based approach designed to help people with chronic musculoskeletal pain.

Director of SHP’s Implementation Science Program, Associate Professor Nicole Rankin, says the projects were chosen for their well-defined implementation and evaluation plans, as well as their ability to engage and include multidisciplinary, collaborative teams across the Partnership.

“Implementation at its best involves engagement and perspectives from multidisciplinary and collaborative teams,” she said.

“The awarded projects all demonstrated active and continued engagement across multiple SHP sites and strong collaborations between clinical and academic disciplines.

“All projects were required to nominated two Principal Investigators (PIs) – one academic, and one from one of SHP’s Health Service Partners. This has ensured the projects answer the clinical questions of our health service partners, while tapping into the academic expertise of our University Partner.”

One project is leveraging the clinical and academic backgrounds of its leadership team by connecting problems of both realms: the lack of clinical placement opportunities for speech pathology students, and the shortage of qualified speech pathologists to deliver necessary treatment to head and neck cancer survivors. 

“We know that swallowing rehabilitation for head and neck cancer survivors can reduce morbidity and mortality, and enhance overall quality of life, but clinicians just don’t have the time to deliver intensive rehabilitation to all patients,” says Dr Emma Wallace, Lecturer and Researcher in the Discipline of Speech Pathology at the University of Sydney.

Dr Wallace and Ms Danielle Stone, Clinical Specialist Speech Pathologist at Royal North Shore Hospital, will use their grant to engage University of Sydney speech pathology students to deliver supervised telerehabilitation to head and neck cancer survivors at Royal North Shore and Prince of Wales Hospitals. Dr Wallace says the grant will allow the team to evaluate the acceptability, feasibility and cost-effectiveness of the student-led program in real-world settings. 

“As a clinician, it’s really nice to be able to test things in practice,” she said.

“It’s often the missing piece; we finish a research study, and never get to see it work in practice. These grants are key to implementing programs in practice that we already know work.”

Another project will test the implementation of an online Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction that reduces stress and anxiety in patients with chronic musculoskeletal pain.

Dr Anita Amorim, who is a Researcher and Lecturer at the University of Sydney, says that the close collaboration with clinicians, including co-PI Dr Charlotte Johnstone, anaesthetist and a pain medicine specialist at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, has made all the difference.

“Our project is more robust now we’ve got the clinicians involved; they’re the ones on the ground and interacting with patients daily, they have a thorough understanding of the profile of patients in the hospital setting, how to get them involved, and how this intervention could help them,” said Dr Amorim. 

Another project is evaluating the implementation of clinician-created patient education videos delivered in-hospital to patients after they have suffered a heart attack. The videos will be trialled at Westmead Hospital and educate patients on their condition and how to manage it once they have left hospital.

“The length of hospital stays after a heart attack have shortened significantly in recent years, so we need to look at new ways to educate patients before they are discharged,” says Clinical PI Dr Aravinda Thiagalingam, who is a Senior Staff Specialist Cardiology at Westmead Hospital and is leading the project, alongside Academic PI Dr Liliana Laranjo, Senior Lecturer in Community and Primary Health Care Practice at the University of Sydney.

The final project has received funding to explore the implementation of digital psychosocial screening tool for adolescent patients in outpatient and emergency settings.

“Research and clinical experience indicate that appropriate psychosocial assessment is just as important as physical assessment to support the health and wellbeing of young people,” says Dr Daniel Waller, Research Officer at Sydney Children’s Hospitals Network, who is leading the project alongside Professor Katharine Steinbeck, Chair in Adolescent Medicine at the University of Sydney’s Faculty of Medicine and Health.

The team will explore the current implementation of HEEADSSS psychosocial assessment tool at Sydney Children’s Hospitals Network sites, to determine what barriers and facilitators exist for psychosocial screening in busy hospital environments.

“This research will help us to determine the processes required to effectively implement psychosocial screening, and how these may be adapted to other health settings,” says Dr Waller.

The 2021 recipients join the four projects funded in 2020, as well as the seven additional projects funded in March 2021 by SHP’s health service Partners following a large number of high-quality applications in 2020.

Implementation Science Pilot Grant Recipients 2021

Online Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction for Chronic Musculoskeletal Pain: A Pilot Randomised Controlled Trial

Academic PI: Dr Anita Amorim, Lecturer at the School of Health Sciences, Faculty of Medicine and Health, The University of Sydney
Clinical PI: Dr Charlotte Johnstone, Anaesthetist/ Pain Medicine Specialist at the Department of Anaesthesia, Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, Sydney Local Health District

Clinician created multimedia and multicultural cardiovascular m-Health education - EDUCATE_MI

Academic PI: Dr Liliana Laranjo, Community and Primary Health Care Practice, Faculty of Medicine and Health, University of Sydney
Clinical PI: Dr Aravinda Thiagalingam, Senior Staff Specialist, Cardiology Department, Westmead Hospital, Western Sydney Local Health District

Digital psychosocial assessment for adolescents in hospital settings: The HEEADSSS implementation study

Academic PI: Professor Katharine Steinbeck, Chair in Adolescent Medicine, Discipline of Child and Adolescent Health, Faculty of Medicine and Health, University of Sydney
Clinical PI: Dr Daniel Waller, Research Officer, Academic Department of Adolescent Medicine, Sydney Children’s Hospital Network (SCHN Westmead)

A student-led speech pathology telerehabilitation program for head and neck cancer survivors – an implementation study

Academic PI: Dr Emma Wallace, Lecturer/Researcher, Faculty of Medicine and Health, Discipline of Speech Pathology
Clinical PI: Ms Danielle Stone, Clinical Specialist Speech Pathologist, Department of Speech Pathology, Royal North Shore Hospital, Northern Sydney Local Health District