Outcomes of a Multidisciplinary Ear Nose and Throat Allied Health Primary Contact Outpatient Assessment Service

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Payten, Christopher L
Eakin, Jennifer
Smith, Tamsin
Stewart, Vicky
Madill, Catherine J
Weir, Kelly A
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Background: Traditionally, patients are seen by an ear, nose and throat (ENT) surgeon prior to allied health referral for treatment of swallowing, voice, hearing and dizziness. Wait-times for ENT consultations often exceed those clinically recommended. We evaluated the service impact of five allied health primary contact clinics (AHPC-ENT) on wait-times and access to treatment.

Setting: A metropolitan Australian University Hospital Outpatient ENT Department.

Participants: We created five AHPC-ENT pathways (dysphonia, dysphagia, vestibular, adult and paediatric audiology) for low-acuity patients referred to ENT with symptoms of dysphonia, dysphagia, dizziness and hearing loss.

Main outcome measures: Using multiple regression analysis, we compared waiting times in the 24-month pre- and 12-month post-implementation of the AHPC-ENT service. In addition, we measured the number of patients requiring specialist ENT intervention after assessment in the AHPC-ENT, adverse events and evaluation of service delivery costs.

Results: Seven hundred and thirty-eight patients were seen in the AHPC-ENT over the first 12 months of implementation (dysphagia, 66; dysphonia, 153; vestibular, 151; retro-cochlear, 60; and paediatric glue ear, 308). All pathways significantly reduced the waiting times for patients by an average of 277 days, compared with usual care. The majority of patients were able to be discharged without ongoing ENT intervention (72% dysphagia; 81% dysphonia; 74% vestibular; 53% retro-cochlear; and 32% paediatric glue ear). No adverse events were recorded.

Conclusions: The AHPC-ENT improved waiting times for assessment and access to treatment. Future research on cost-effectiveness and diagnostic agreement between AHPs and ENT clinicians would provide further confidence in the model.

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Clinical Otolaryngology
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Allied health and rehabilitation science
Speech pathology
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Payten, CL; Eakin, J; Smith, T; Stewart, V; Madill, CJ; Weir, KA, Outcomes of a Multidisciplinary Ear Nose and Throat Allied Health Primary Contact Outpatient Assessment Service, Clinical Otolaryngology