Digital Health Solutions for Improving Outpatient Care Utilisation

By Shayma Mohammed Selim, AusHSI PhD Scholar

In July 2020, I began my search for opportunities that would help me further explore my interest in health economics and health services research. With all of the uncertainty that came with the pandemic, I wasn’t entirely sure whether to apply for a job or to continue my studies. When I stumbled upon AusHSI’s call for PhD applicants, I decided to give it a shot and my application was successful.

Fast forward a year and a bit into my PhD journey, and I couldn’t be more grateful to now be surrounded by the friendly, vibrant, and supportive AusHSI team that has helped shape my research project. I am learning about the application of health economics methods whilst tackling a compelling research problem of interest to industry stakeholders.

A snapshot of my research project: when a patient does not attend a scheduled healthcare appointment and does not cancel in advance, it leaves a vacant appointment slot that cannot be used or offered to others. Non-attendance at scheduled healthcare appointments wastes resources that could have been allocated to the provision of other healthcare services; in the United States, non-attendance has been estimated to cost US$150 billion per year. Non-attendance can increase waiting list times, wastes staff time, and may be detrimental to a patient’s health if they don’t receive timely healthcare. Finding ways to reduce non-attendance is challenging, but it is attainable. With the way in which consumers engage with healthcare systems changing, it opens the door to explore how the digitisation of healthcare information systems can help support better engagement with the healthcare system and improve outpatient care utilisation.

My research looks at ways in which digital health systems can assist in the reduction of non-attendance at scheduled outpatient healthcare appointments. The project aims to provide insights into the impact of non-attendance within Metro South Health, consumer preferences for interventions that may be used to reduce the impact of non-attendance, and the cost-effectiveness of these interventions.

A key lesson I’ve learned: give it a go – whether it be applying for that scholarship you’ve been eyeing, a training course, a chance to teach, a competition, or a social event with your peers. You never know what opportunities might lie ahead.

This doctoral research program is made possible by the Digital Health Cooperative Research Centre (DHCRC). It is being conducted in partnership with QUT, the Australian Centre for Health Services and Innovation, Metro South Health and the DHCRC.