Arthritis and Osteoporosis Victoria's (A&OV) Research, Knowledge and Policy Manager, Associate Professor Andrew Briggs is a recipient of the 2014 National Lead Clinicians Group Awards for Excellence, the highest clinical awards available from the Commonwealth Government.
Dr Briggs and his team at Curtin University were named as runner-up in the -general category' for their innovative program designed to ensure physiotherapists provide the best care possible to people with rheumatoid arthritis.
Dr Briggs and his team were presented with his certificate and prize by the Australian Government's Chief Medical Officer, Professor Chris Baggoley on behalf of the Minister of Health, the Hon Peter Dutton.
'It is very pleasing to see a musculoskeletal-focused project being awarded in 2014. The social and personal impacts of chronic musculoskeletal (MSK) conditions are generally under recognised, so raising their profile in this way is important to our team," said Dr Briggs.
'The award reflects effective partnership-based work across government, universities, health services, multidisciplinary clinicians and consumers, and most importantly a committed programme team at Curtin University and Department of Health (WA)."
Specifically, the program of work examined how the physiotherapy workforce needed to be engaged, what skills and knowledge they needed to deliver best care, their professional development needs in order to deliver evidence-based care, and ultimately the development and evaluation of a web-based learning platform for physiotherapists in best-practice management of rheumatoid arthritis.
'We are delighted to see the ground breaking work that Andrew produces recognised on a national scale," said Arthritis and Osteoporosis Victoria CEO, Linda Martin.
In addition to his role as Manager: Research, Knowledge and Policy, Arthritis and Osteoporosis Victoria, Dr Briggs is an Associate Professor, Faculty of Health Sciences, Curtin University WA.
Dr Briggs has a Doctorate of Philosophy (PhD) completed at the Centre for Health, Exercise and Sports Medicine, School of Physiotherapy; and Department of Medicine, Royal Melbourne Hospital, The University of Melbourne and a BSc.(Physiotherapy)Hons1A (by research) from Curtin University of Technology.
Dr Briggs has worked as a clinical physiotherapist since 2001; the vast majority of his clinical career being dedicated to musculoskeletal physiotherapy with a focus on musculoskeletal pain and bone health. Dr Briggs is also a member of the NHMRC Research Translation Faculty. He was instrumental in the preparation of A&OV's Australian socioeconomic report on musculoskeletal health, -A Problem Worth Solving' and the establishment of the Victorian Musculoskeletal Clinical Leadership Group on which he serves as a full sitting member. Dr Briggs has published more than 60 papers in peer-reviewed journals with a focus on musculoskeletal pain.
Arthritis and Osteoporosis Victoria is the largest musculoskeletal not for profit in Australia representing people who live with arthritis, osteoporosis and over 150 other musculoskeletal conditions. Currently there are 6.1 million Australians (1.5 million Victorians) living with painful MSK conditions. We receive less than 1% of recurrent government funding and rely on the generosity and support of our donors to provide important services, advocacy, information, education and research.
Question: How does it feel to be the recipient of the 2014 National Lead Clinicians Group Awards for Excellence?
Associate Professor Andrew Briggs: Its very pleasing to be recognised as a runner up for the Award. Receiving the Award recognises the hard work by all members of the team as undertaking a programme of work of this scale absolutely requires a team effort. It's also pleasing to see that an Award has been made in the area of musculoskeletal health. Despite the enormous impacts of these conditions, they are relatively less recognised than other chronic health conditions.
Question: How will this award help the study of rheumatoid arthritis?
Associate Professor Andrew Briggs: The Award will be used to further the team's work in supporting clinicians to better manage people who live with rheumatoid arthritis. Specifically, this Award will enable us to integrate the learning resources we have developed into undergraduate university curriculum, and evaluate the effectiveness of doing so. While upskilling the existing workforce is critical, we are likely to see a better return on investment by optimising training for the emerging workforce.
Question: What can you tell us about the innovative program you're working on with a team at Curtin University?
Associate Professor Andrew Briggs: My team at Curtin is undertaking a policy into practice programme of work in rheumatoid arthritis. This means we have developed policy-relevant research questions that aim to support implementation of the policy – specifically, the WA Inflammatory Arthritis Model of Care. The programme of work involved:
determining the barriers and enablers to sustainable implementation of the policy,
determining the disease-specific skills and knowledge required by physiotherapists to deliver evidence-based care for people with rheumatoid arthritis,
determining whether physiotherapists require professional development in this clinical area, and if so, through what modes
developing a web-based e-learning platform that integrates disease-specific knowledge ('the know") with clinical skills ('the do") and that includes features that support clinicians in practice, e.g. evidence summaries, referral letters, diagnostic flow charts
evaluating the effectiveness of the e-learning resource in a high-quality trial
broadly disseminating the resource with our implementation partners (Department of Health, WA; Australian Physiotherapy Association; Arthritis and Osteoporosis WA; Australian Rheumatology Association; Rheumatology Health Professionals Assocaition)
developing a framework to embed the e-learning resource into undergraduate curriculum
Question: What has this program achieved, so far?
Associate Professor Andrew Briggs: Notable achievement of the programme have been:
Determining for the first time the specific elements of disease-specific knowledge and clinical skills required by physiotherapists to deliver the recommended care for people with RA. While clinical guidelines exist, they don't actually tell you what you need to know and how to deliver care.
Running a randomised controlled trial (RCT) to measure the effectiveness of the resource. An RCT is the most robust design to test the effectiveness of an intervention, so the level of evidence is very high with such a design. Our RCT showed a high level of effectiveness for the resource when tested with an 'intervention group" compared with a 'control group" of Australian physiotherapists.
Partnering with several key bodies to support implementation.
Question: Can you tell us what a typical day is like, for you?
Associate Professor Andrew Briggs: My day is very varied – it would typically involve supporting my research team (reviewing materials, writing reports, data analysis, preparing grants), engaging in clinical practice and working at Arthritis and Osteoporosis Victoria to develop and implement a Research and Knowledge Exchange Strategy for the organisation.
Question: What inspired you to work towards this career field as a clinical physiotherapist?
Associate Professor Andrew Briggs: I have always enjoyed working with people and understanding how the human body works and moves. Physiotherapy provided me with the ability to pursue these two interests and complement a clinical career with research and policy.
Question: What advice do you have for others looking at studying in your field?
Associate Professor Andrew Briggs: To succeed in contemporary clinical research, in my view, requires researchers to work in a diverse and multidisciplinary team, undertake research that is policy-relevant, and focus outcomes on improving the health and understanding of the end user – ideally, this would be consumers or health practitioners.
Question: How can Australians support Arthritis and Osteoporosis Victoria?
Associate Professor Andrew Briggs: Arthritis and Osteoporosis Victoria support the 6.1 million Australians (1.5 million Victorians) with live with a MSK condition. You can support us by becoming a member, buying a raffle ticket, joining our Run Melbourne fundraising team, or simply by donating to us. http://www.arthritisvic.org.au/Get-Involved-Content/Donate
Interview by Brooke Hunter