Australian Health Review Australian Health Review Society
Journal of the Australian Healthcare & Hospitals Association
RESEARCH ARTICLE

Does delivery of a training program for healthcare professionals increase access to pulmonary rehabilitation and improve outcomes for people with chronic lung disease in rural and remote Australia?

Catherine L. Johnston A E , Lyndal J. Maxwell B , Graeme P. Maguire C and Jennifer A. Alison D
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

A Discipline of Physiotherapy, School of Health Sciences, The University of Newcastle, Callaghan, NSW 2308, Australia.

B School of Physiotherapy, Faculty of Health Sciences, Australian Catholic University, North Sydney, NSW 2060, Australia. Email: lyndal.maxwell@acu.edu.au

C Baker IDI Central Australia, Alice Springs, NT 0871, Australia. Email: graeme.maguire@bakeridi.edu.au

D Discipline of Physiotherapy, Faculty of Health Sciences, The University of Sydney, Lidcombe, NSW 2141, Australia. Email: jennifer.alison@sydney.edu.au

E Corresponding author. Email: cath.johnston@newcastle.edu.au

Australian Health Review 38(4) 387-395 https://doi.org/10.1071/AH14009
Submitted: 13 January 2014  Accepted: 6 May 2014   Published: 17 July 2014

Abstract

Objective Access to pulmonary rehabilitation (PR), an effective management strategy for people with chronic respiratory disease, is often limited particularly in rural and remote regions. Difficulties with establishment and maintenance of PR have been reported. Reasons may include a lack of adequately trained staff. There have been no published reports evaluating the impact of training programs on PR provision. The aim of this project was to evaluate the impact of an interactive training and support program for healthcare professionals (the Breathe Easy, Walk Easy (BEWE) program) on the delivery of PR in rural and remote regions.

Methods The study was a quasi-experimental before–after design. Data were collected regarding the provision of PR services before and after delivery of the BEWE program and patient outcomes before and after PR.

Results The BEWE program was delivered in one rural and one remote region. Neither region had active PR before the BEWE program delivery. At 12-month follow-up, three locally-run PR programs had been established. Audit and patient outcomes indicated that the PR programs established broadly met Australian practice recommendations and were being delivered effectively. In both regions PR was established with strong healthcare organisational support but without significant external funding, relying instead on the diversion of internal funding and/or in-kind support.

Conclusions The BEWE program enabled the successful establishment of PR and improved patient outcomes in rural and remote regions. However, given the funding models used, the sustainability of these programs in the long term is unknown. Further research into the factors contributing to the ability of rural and remote sites to provide ongoing delivery of PR is required.

What is known about the topic? PR including exercise training, education, and psychosocial support, is an effective and well evidenced management strategy for people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) that improves exercise capacity and quality of life, and reduces hospital admissions and length of stay. Despite the fact that participation in PR is seen as an essential component in the management of COPD, access remains limited, particularly in rural and remote regions. Difficulties with establishing and maintaining PR have been attributed to lack of physical and financial resources and adequately trained and skilled staff. There have been no published reports evaluating the impact of training programs for healthcare professionals in the provision of PR.

What does this paper add? This paper is the first to demonstrate that the delivery of a well supported, interactive healthcare professional training program may facilitate the establishment of PR in rural and remote regions. Following delivery of the BEWE program, PR which broadly met the Australian recommendations for practice in terms of program content and structure, was established. Factors influencing the establishment of PR were related to the characteristics of the healthcare setting, such as remoteness, and to issues around staff retention. The settings where PR was not established were in less well-staffed, community-based, more remote settings. People with COPD who participated in these programs showed significant improvements in exercise capacity and quality of life.

What are the implications for practitioners? One of the factors limiting the delivery of PR may be a lack of appropriately trained and skilled staff. Healthcare professionals’ participation in locally provided education and training programs targeted at developing skills for providing PR may enable effective PR programs to be established and maintained in rural and remote regions.


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