Mrs Jennifer Eakin1
1Gold Coast Health, Southport, Australia
Ear, Nose and Throat (ENT) care is a key component in the management of children with hearing loss. However, increasing demand on ENT services within the health care system is resulting in long waiting times for first assessment, well beyond clinically recommended timeframes. To help combat this at the Gold Coast University Hospital (GCUH), an Allied Health Primary Contact Service for ENT referrals was established in 2016. This service includes an Audiology-led paediatric pathway aiming to direct ENT patients, not immediately require medical or surgical intervention, away from the specialist waiting list and into an audiology clinic for their first point of care. Whilst Allied Health-led models for the management of specialist waiting lists have become more common and there is a growing body of evidence from other disciplines to support efficiency, improvement in access to health care and safety, evidence from the Audiology profession is required.
A 12-month analysis of patient data (n=732) from the GCUH Allied Health Primary Contact Service was undertaken. The implementation of the Audiology-led paediatric clinic (n=311) showed a significant reduction in waiting times, from 356 days to 68 days. Ninety-three percent (93%) of patients reported being either satisfied or very satisfied with the service and 83% reported being confident or very confident that the Allied Health clinician could address their condition. Furthermore, preliminary findings (n=50) from a concordance evaluation examining level of agreement between the Audiologist and ENT specialist regarding recommendations for management will be reported. The results provide reassurance that ENT patients triaged into the Audiology-led pathway receive comparable care and follow a similar management pathway regardless of whether their first contact was with an Audiologist or ENT specialist. This provides evidence that Audiology-led paediatric clinics for ENT referrals are safe and effective models of care to tackle lengthy ENT specialist waiting lists.
Jennifer completed her Bachelor of Speech Pathology (Honours in Audiology) at UQ in 1998 and has over 17 years’ experience working as an audiologist within the Australian and UK public health systems, specialising in paediatric and adult cochlear implantation. Jennifer currently works at the Gold Coast University Hospital focusing on the delivery of audiology services to patients in ENT clinics and newborn hearing assessment. Through the ongoing development of this new Gold Coast service and advocacy for hearing health care, Jennifer is committed to improving access to public hearing testing for all Gold Coast residents.