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1.  Adherence to management guidelines for growth faltering and anaemia in remote dwelling Australian Aboriginal infants and barriers to health service delivery 
Background
Remote dwelling Aboriginal infants from northern Australia have a high burden of disease and frequently use health services. Little is known about the quality of infant care provided by remote health services. This study describes the adherence to infant guidelines for anaemia and growth faltering by remote health staff and barriers to effective service delivery in remote settings.
Methods
A mixed method study drew data from 24 semi-structured interviews with clinicians working in two remote communities in northern Australia and a retrospective cohort study of Aboriginal infants from these communities, born 2004–2006 (n = 398). Medical records from remote health centres were audited. The main outcome measures were the period prevalence of infants with anaemia and growth faltering and management of these conditions according to local guidelines. Qualitative data assessed clinicians’ perspectives on barriers to effective remote health service delivery.
Results
Data from 398 health centre records were analysed. Sixty eight percent of infants were anaemic between six and twelve months of age and 42% had documented growth faltering by one year. Analysis of the growth data by the authors however found 86% of infants experienced growth faltering over 12 months. Clinical management and treatment completion was poor for both conditions. High staff turnover, fragmented models of care and staff poorly prepared for their role were barriers perceived by clinicians’ to impact upon the quality of service delivery.
Conclusion
Among Aboriginal infants in northern Australia, malnutrition and anaemia are common and occur early. Diagnosis of growth faltering and clinicians’ adherence to management guidelines for both conditions was poor. Antiquated service delivery models, organisation of staff and rapid staff turnover contributed to poor quality of care. Service redesign, education and staff stability must be a priority to redress serious deficits in quality of care provided for these infants.
doi:10.1186/1472-6963-13-250
PMCID: PMC3750842  PMID: 23819687
Aboriginal; Adherence; Anaemia; Australia; Barriers; Growth faltering; Infant; Management guidelines; Primary health care; Remote; Quality of care
2.  Use of health services by remote dwelling Aboriginal infants in tropical northern Australia: a retrospective cohort study 
BMC Pediatrics  2012;12:19.
Background
Australia is a wealthy developed country. However, there are significant disparities in health outcomes for Aboriginal infants compared with other Australian infants. Health outcomes tend to be worse for those living in remote areas. Little is known about the health service utilisation patterns of remote dwelling Aboriginal infants. This study describes health service utilisation patterns at the primary and referral level by remote dwelling Aboriginal infants from northern Australia.
Results
Data on 413 infants were analysed. Following birth, one third of infants were admitted to the regional hospital neonatal nursery, primarily for preterm birth. Once home, most (98%) health service utilisation occurred at the remote primary health centre, infants presented to the centre about once a fortnight (mean 28 presentations per year, 95%CI 26.4-30.0). Half of the presentations were for new problems, most commonly for respiratory, skin and gastrointestinal symptoms. Remaining presentations were for reviews or routine health service provision. By one year of age 59% of infants were admitted to hospital at least once, the rate of hospitalisation per infant year was 1.1 (95%CI 0.9-1.2).
Conclusions
The hospitalisation rate is high and admissions commence early in life, visits to the remote primary health centre are frequent. Half of all presentations are for new problems. These findings have important implications for health service planning and delivery to remote dwelling Aboriginal families.
doi:10.1186/1471-2431-12-19
PMCID: PMC3384247  PMID: 22373262
3.  Community based service providers' perspectives on frequent and/or avoidable admission of older people with chronic disease in rural NSW: a qualitative study 
Background
Frequent and potentially avoidable hospital admission amongst older patients with ambulatory care sensitive (ACS) chronic conditions is a major topic for research internationally, driven by the imperative to understand and therefore reduce hospital admissions. Research to date has mostly focused on analysis of routine data using ACS as a proxy for 'potentially avoidable'. There has been less research on the antecedents of frequent and/or avoidable admission from the perspectives of patients or those offering community based care and support for these patients. This study aimed to explore community based service providers' perspectives on the factors contributing to admission among older patients with chronic disease and a history of frequent and potentially avoidable admission.
Methods
15 semi-structured interviews with community based providers of health care and other services, and an emergency department physician were conducted. Summary documents were produced and thematic analysis undertaken.
Results
A range of complex barriers which limit or inhibit access to services were reported. We classified these as external and internal barriers. Important external barriers included: complexity of provision of services, patients' limited awareness of different services and their inexperience in accessing services, patients needing a higher level or longer length of service than they currently have access to, or an actual lack of available services, patient poverty, rurality, and transport. Important internal barriers included: fear (of change for example), a 'stoic' attitude to life, and for some, the difficulty of accepting their changed health status.
Conclusions
The factors underlying frequent and/or potentially avoidable admission are numerous and complex. Identifying strategies to improve services or interventions for this group requires understanding patient, carer and service providers' perspectives. Improving accessibility of services is also complex, and includes consideration of patients' social, emotional and psychological ability and willingness to use services as well as those services being available and easily accessed.
doi:10.1186/1472-6963-11-265
PMCID: PMC3203046  PMID: 21989302
4.  Frequent hospital admission of older people with chronic disease: a cross-sectional survey with telephone follow-up and data linkage 
Background
The continued increase in hospital admissions is a significant and complex issue facing health services. There is little research exploring patient perspectives or examining individual admissions among patients with frequent admissions for chronic ambulatory care sensitive (ACS) conditions. This paper aims to describe characteristics of older, rural patients frequently admitted with ACS conditions and identify factors associated with their admissions from the patient perspective.
Methods
Patients aged 65+ resident in North Coast NSW with three or more admissions for selected ACS chronic conditions within a 12 month period, were invited to participate in a postal survey and follow up telephone call. Survey and telephone data were linked to admission and health service program data. Descriptive statistics were generated for survey respondents; logistic regression models developed to compare characteristics of patients with 3 or with 4+ admissions; and comparisons made between survey respondents and non-respondents.
Results
Survey respondents (n=102) had a mean age of 77.1 years (range 66–95 years), and a mean of 4.1 admissions within 12 months; 49% had at least three chronic conditions; the majority had low socioeconomic status; one in five (22%) reported some difficulty affording their medication; and 35% lived alone. The majority reported psychological distress with 31% having moderate or severe psychological distress. While all had a GP, only 38% reported having a written GP care plan. 22% of those who needed regular help with daily tasks did not have a close friend or relative who regularly cared for them. Factors independently associated with more frequent (n=4+) relative to less frequent (n=3) admissions included having congestive heart failure (p=0.003), higher social isolation scores (p=0.040) and higher Charlson Comorbidity Index scores (p=0.049). Most respondents (61%) felt there was nothing that could have avoided their most recent admission, although some potential avoidability of admission was described around medication and health behaviours. Respondents were younger and less sick than non-respondents.
Conclusions
This study provides a detailed description of older patients with multiple chronic conditions and a history of frequent admission in rural Australia. Our results suggest that programs targeting medication use, health behaviours and social isolation may help reduce multiple hospital admissions for chronic disease.
doi:10.1186/1472-6963-12-373
PMCID: PMC3504579  PMID: 23110342
Frequent hospitalisation; Frequent admission; Avoidable admission; Potentially preventable admission; Older people; Chronic disease; Rural; Australia; Social isolation.

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