When we use the term ‘allied health’ we are referring to the broad range of health professionals who are not doctors, dentists or nurses. Vast and diverse, allied health professionals include physiotherapists, podiatrists, psychologists, occupational therapists, speech therapists, dietitians, pharmacists, exercise physiologists, radiologists, and social workers who represent more than a quarter of the Australia health workforce. Each of these disciplines have different training and ways of thinking, and unique tasks and methods of patient care.
As such, the use of evidence-based practice within allied health is vital to improving patient outcomes. By encouraging health professionals to integrate information from the best available research evidence, with their clinical expertise and the patient’s values and preferences, we ensure we are making the best possible health care decisions to patients in our care. Nowadays, allied health professionals are often encouraged to be research literate and assist in the translation research evidence into clinical practice.
The use of evidence in allied health is evolving and more allied health professionals are now becoming involved in research training, knowledge generation, knowledge translation, evidence implementation and policy setting. Unfortunately, there is still a considerable gap between what is known from research evidence and what is occurring in clinical practice. This gap is much larger than most expect – for example, did you know it takes roughly 17 years to translate the evidence generated today into clinical practice?
Bridging this gap is essential to improving the quality of health care, however, allied health professionals are faced with many barriers in doing so, including limited knowledge and skills, beliefs and attitudes of professionals and patients, role expectations, and organisational factors such as lack of equipment. Keeping well-informed of current literature findings and clinical outcomes currently remains an uphill battle for many health professionals, due to the increasing number of research publications combined with more complex and increased workloads.
Despite clinical expertise and a quality focus, some allied health professionals lack research and evaluation skills. Understanding the usefulness and flaws of study methodology, summarising relevant studies and applying the evidence with consideration to individual patient needs makes it an often-overwhelming task. Steps have been taken to minimise this, with evidence-based practice being integrated as a core component into the curriculum of undergraduate and postgraduate degrees, and continuing education being encouraged for allied health programs.
Journal clubs represent a resource for practicing clinicians to assist with bridging the gap between research and clinical practice. Consisting of a group of clinicians with a single focus, journal clubs meet regularly to discuss current articles from scientific journals and how these may impact their clinical practice. Journal clubs provide an avenue for accessing, evaluating and reflecting upon evidence derived from the literature, thereby promoting evidence-based practice for both the individual health professional and the organisations they work for.
At the International Centre for Allied Health Evidence (iCAHE) we help provide a sustainable model of journal club to assist allied health professionals with the incorporation of evidence-based research into everyday practice. Acutely aware of the time constraints currently placed on clinicians in allied health practice today, iCAHE Journal Clubs offer the unique opportunity for clinicians to have access to a team of researchers who will assist with sourcing and appraising relevant evidence in response to specific clinical questions. We also offer training and development to assist with capacity building for allied health staff. For further information on allied health journal clubs and the International Centre for Allied Health Evidence (iCAHE) please contact: iCAHEjournalclub@unisa.edu.au.
Matt Ransom, Academic Researcher at the International Centre for Allied Health Evidence (iCAHE)
To find information on supporting allied health professionals to provide compassionate, evidence-based end-of-life care for their clients visit the CareSearch Allied Health section.