Toowoomba Hospital speech pathologist Maddy Dawson and Mrs Lorna Rickert take a look at the easy-to-understand version of the Australian Charter of Healthcare Rights.
Toowoomba Hospital speech pathologist Maddy Dawson and Mrs Lorna Rickert take a look at the easy-to-understand version of the Australian Charter of Healthcare Rights. Contributed

Toowoomba speech pathologist wins Queensland award

A NEW resource developed at Toowoomba Hospital's speech pathology department has won a state-wide speech pathology quality improvement award.

The resource, developed by Toowoomba Hospital speech pathologist Maddy Dawson, is an easy-to-read version of the Australian Charter of Healthcare Rights.

Darling Downs Hospital and Health Service director of speech pathology Gai Rollings said the award was a richly deserved acknowledgement of the work done by Ms Dawson.

"Within Queensland Health there is a network called Leaders in Speech Pathology, and each year they present an award to a new graduate for achievements in quality and innovation, so it was wonderful to see Maddy's efforts recognised," Ms Rollings said.

"The Australian Charter of Healthcare Rights is a brochure that's given to all people when they access the healthcare system, and it's a very important document because it outlines the key rights of patients and consumers of healthcare services.

"In speech pathology we help people with cognitive, communication, or age-related issues every day, and it became apparent that the previous version, which had a lot of text and a lot of information in quite a small font size, was not as accessible for those patients.

"So when we decided to make an alternative, easier-to-read version Maddy took up the challenge and the results speak for themselves."

Ms Dawson said receiving news of the award was an unexpected but very pleasant surprise.

"The award was announced on January 4 so that was a very nice way to start off the new year," she said.

"In developing the new brochure I worked in conjunction with the Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Healthcare and we used the Australian Aphasia Association guidelines to make it very reader-friendly.

"It has the same basic layout with information about the key patient rights, and the same images, but it's written in an easier-to-understand way.

"When we finished this version we did a pilot study of patients in the hospital's acute stroke and rehabilitation unit and found that more than 80 per cent of patients preferred the new version.

"It's been very pleasing to see that it will now be used not just here in Toowoomba Hospital, but throughout the 20 hospitals, six residential aged care facilities and numerous community health settings throughout the Darling Downs Hospital and Health Service."

Lorna Rickert said she had a clear favourite when comparing the two versions of the brochure.

"I definitely think the new version is the better of the two," Mrs Rickert said.

"The writing is a lot bigger, you can see everything much more clearly and it's far easier to read."

Ms Rollings said the popularity of the new brochure was a great reflection on the effectiveness of community engagement.

"Two things we hold very dear are patient-centred care and community engagement, and this process started with us addressing feedback from consumers of our services, and has come to fruition with the development of an excellent new resource," she said.

"The brochure has been embraced by the DDHHS and I think there is very real potential for it to be taken up further afield.

"We are looking forward to the DDHHS Allied Health Showcase in February when Maddy will be doing a presentation on the project, and we will also be looking into opportunities for state-wide and national exposure."


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