New research highlights gaps in regional post-stroke care

Queensland researchers have been working to determine how to better support speech pathologists in remote and regional areas to provide best practice care to people with aphasia following stroke.

One in three survivors of stroke experiences difficulties with communication, including challenges talking, reading, writing, or understanding others. This is called aphasia.

The study, “Co-designing aphasia services for regional and remote Queensland: Experiences and unmet needs of speech pathologists managing aphasia care” was led by Lisa Anemaat who is a speech pathologist and Ph.D. candidate from the Queensland Aphasia Research Center at the University of Queensland.

Mrs. Anemaat’s findings will be showcased in New Zealand at the 31st Annual Scientific Meeting of the Stroke Society of Australasia 2022. The Australasian conference is being held at Christchurch’s Te Pae Convention Center and has attracted stroke experts from around the world. 

Mrs. Anemaat said providing equitable post-stroke care in Australia, particularly in regional areas can be challenging.

“Geographic isolation and disparately located health services present unique challenges for providers in regional and remote communities,” Mrs. Anemaat said.

“Understanding the experiences of speech pathologists is crucial to determine where the pressure points and gaps in service delivery exist and where support is needed.

The research involved the recruitment of 23 speech pathologists from 10 Queensland hospital sites and affiliate groups. Mrs. Anemaat said the study found clinicians in regional areas often defined themselves as generalists.

“Unmet needs for speech pathologists included access to supervision from experienced clinicians, resources and treatment options for culturally and linguistic diverse populations and service constraints reducing capacity for clinicians to deliver evidence-based care,” she said.

“The remoteness also meant it was harder for patients to receive personalized care, and if handover wasn’t detailed, the clinicians struggled to continue that level of care. Another challenge faced is that people with aphasia may experience fatigue after having to travel long distances.”

Mrs. Anemaat said the findings will assist in delivering research grants which will support funding applications for future research to address these identified unmet needs.

Stroke is a leading cause of disability in Australia. More than 5,300 Queenslanders will experience a stroke for the first time this year.