BLOG: Bridging the silos

Professor Jennifer Philip – Chair of Palliative Medicine, Group Leader VCCC Palliative Medicine Research Group – discusses the importance of clinical and research collaboration, with real-world examples of success.

Professor Jennifer Philip

Too often there is a divide between the domains of research and clinical care.

While there may be some intersection as input or outputs are sought in the form of translating laboratory findings to the bedside, a divide still prevails.

Even those who are clinician researchers frequently need to step away from the bed to don the metaphorical lab coat and only then do they assume their research role.

By contrast, a unique team of clinicians, research clinicians and researchers has been established in the VCCC Palliative Medicine Research Group.

Situated on the hospital campus of St Vincent’s, the researchers are embedded, have coffee, and so called ‘water cooler’ moments, with clinical trialists and clinicians. Researchers attend, recruit and update clinical team meetings. And clinicians attend weekly informal research meetings where ideas are raised, projects are discussed, and strengths and weaknesses of different methods to answer key clinical questions are argued.

There are a number of examples of successful outputs that demonstrate this important collaboration.

A music therapist, working with patients who are dying and their families, sought advice on how to examine the impact of their therapeutic consultation, including a health economic evaluation to assist securing the sustainability of the service.

The real-time clinical problem of balancing competing needs on a waiting list for palliative care beds was developed into a series of studies to create a prioritisation tool for palliative care services. This has become the focus of a PhD student who has garnered international participation throughout the development, and is working with state government on an implementation process for palliative care services.

And a program of research has been established to examine the care of people in prison who are dying, developed in response to clinicians highlighting particular challenges in caring for this vulnerable group.

We believe that this highly productive clinician-researcher-clinician relationship is something to celebrate, as it facilitates an ongoing research pipeline of both researchers and highly relevant topics, facilitates clinician mentorship, builds collaborative relationships and maximises research impact through immediate translation of findings into patient care.