Heart and cancer patients to benefit from Deakin's new NHMRC Partnership Projects

Research news

29 March 2021

Australians will benefit from an improved cancer phone information and support service, and improved heart failure specialist care in regional communities, thanks to two innovative new National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) research projects.

Deakin University was awarded two of ten “next-generation” NHMRC Partnership Projects announced by the Minister for Health, the Hon Greg Hunt MP on 27 March.

Professor Rachel Huxley, Executive Dean of Deakin’s Faculty of Health, said Deakin’s success in this funding round was testament to the University’s world-class health research expertise and established partnerships.

“I am delighted and very proud of the research leaders Professor Andrea Driscoll and Dr Nikki McCaffrey and all the other Deakin researchers who will be involved in these programs,” Professor Huxley said.

“Working with decision makers, policy makers, hospitals, service providers, clinicians, patient representative bodies and other groups to design, undertake and implement research is the best way to see research evidence translated into health policy and service delivery, and make a real difference in our communities.”

Improved phone support service for cancer patients and carers

Dr Nikki McCaffrey from Deakin Health Economics, School of Health and Social Development, Institute for Health Transformation, will lead the four-year project “Defining and optimising the economic and social return on investment of telephone cancer information and support services for all Australians” ($936,786.70).

“Over one million Australians are living with cancer, its impacts and side effects, including patients and family members, but over 50 per cent of these people have unmet supportive care needs. This project aims to address that,” Dr McCaffrey said.

“Cancer diagnosis and treatment is improving, and this means there are more Australians living with cancer and its effects. Our world-first research will look at the costs and benefits – health, economic and social – of the telephone information and support service currently being offered by Cancer Council Victoria and determine how it can be even more effective.”

The new project will investigate the best ways to deliver, promote and target beneficiaries of the phone service, including exploring how best to reach people with limited access such as those living in rural and remote regions and people from disadvantaged backgrounds.

“We will be looking at the cost of providing the service and attaching a value to the benefits. Operated by experienced cancer nurses, Cancer Council Victoria’s 13 11 20 is a very important service, providing health, social, emotional and practical support, like navigating the health system or accessing financial support. We will build understanding about how to provide the right support and care at the right time for people affected by cancer and their families and achieve better outcomes with the resources available.”

This research is the first of its kind worldwide and will provide an evidence base for phone support services to improve cancer outcomes and maximise return on investment. While the research will focus on Cancer Council Victoria’s 13 11 20 service, findings will be shared around the nation.

Deakin collaborators on the project are: Professor Victoria White, Professor Patricia Livingston, Professor Cathrine Mihalopoulos, Professor Liliana Orellana, Dr Lidia Engel and Professor Alison Hutchinson. Professor Christine Paul (University of Newcastle), Dr Claire Hutchinson (Flinders University) and Professor Sanchia Aranda (University of Melbourne) are also collaborating on the project.

The funding partners are: Cancer Council Australia, Cancer Council Victoria, Department of Health VIC, Breast Cancer Network Australia and Prostate Cancer Foundation of Australia.

Better Heart Failure Guidelines and care for regional Australians

Professor Andrea Driscoll from Deakin’s Institute for Health Transformation’s Quality and Patient Safety Centre, School of Nursing and Midwifery, will lead the five-year project “I-HEART: Implementation of Heart Failure Guidelines in Regional Australia” ($1,266,172.55).

“Heart failure has a higher rate of mortality and leads to poorer quality of life for regional Victorians. This project aims to improve heart failure survival and recovery in regional Australia,” Professor Driscoll said.

“Through evidence-based best practice, we know we can improve the translation of the clinical guidelines and reduce mortality rates and hospitalisations in regional Australia where patients have less access to specialist medical teams.”

Working with six regional hospitals, her research team will run workshops and oversee several initiatives to improve patient outcomes. These include reducing the time heart failure patients must wait to be reviewed by cardiologists and improving processes for prescribing medications, which will reduce hospitalisation and mortality rates.

“Regional hospitals have a higher rate of rehospitalisation and mortality, partly because people may be sicker living in rural areas and partly because there isn’t adequate access to cardiologists and nurse practitioners,” said Professor Driscoll.

“We will be linking patients to specialist care at Austin Health and St Vincent’s through telehealth, as well as running workshops and working with GPs and regional services to improve care and to support their management of patients in the community.”

Deakin’s Professor Alison Hutchinson and Professor Liliana Orellana will also work on this project. Collaborators from other institutions are: Professor John Atherton (Royal Brisbane and Women's Hospital), Associate Professor David Prior and Associate Professor Ralph Audehm (both University of Melbourne), Professor Christopher Reid (Curtin University), Associate Professor Carmine De Pasquale (Flinders University), Professor Phillip Newton (University of Technology Sydney) and Dr Ella Zomer (Monash University).

Funding partners in this project are: Albury Wodonga Health, Colac Area Health, National Heart Foundation, Austin Health, Swan Hill District Health, Department of Health VIC, South West Healthcare, East Grampians Health Service, Novartis Australia, Western Alliance, Murray Primary Health Network, St Vincent’s Hospital Melbourne and Castlemaine Health.

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Dr Nikki McCaffrey and Professor Andrea Driscoll

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Dr Nikki McCaffrey and Professor Andrea Driscoll

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