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Driving Innovation In Allied Health: From Permission Seeking To Owning Our Space

The world of healthcare is constantly evolving, driven by technological advances, research breakthroughs, and changing demographics. With these changes comes a need for allied health professionals to adapt and innovate. Yet, all too often, we find ourselves waiting for permission, seeking approval, or looking for external validation before we make a move. The time has come for us to shift our mindset: from one of permission-seeking to one of driving innovation and confidently owning our space.

Understanding the roots of permission seeking

Historically, the hierarchical nature of healthcare systems has often placed allied health professionals in roles that seem ancillary to primary care providers.

This structure has inadvertently fostered a culture where allied health professionals may feel the necessity to wait for explicit permission or seek validation before implementing innovative practices or making key decisions.

Such a legacy can be traced back to the educational and training pathways of allied health professionals, which often emphasise following established protocols and guidelines, reinforcing a mindset of compliance over innovation—in many healthcare settings, there exists a clear power dynamic, where decisions by medical practitioners in primary care settings are given precedence, perpetuating a belief that innovations or changes proposed by allied health staff require endorsement from these providers.

Recognising this deep-rooted pattern is the first step towards change and empowering allied health professionals to assert their expertise and take a more proactive role in driving innovation. This shift is essential not just for the professional development of allied health workers, but for the evolution of healthcare as a whole, ensuring that it becomes more dynamic, patient-centred, and adaptive.

The value of allied health professions

Allied health professionals play pivotal roles in holistic patient care.

Our expertise provides a unique perspective, focusing on optimising function, quality of life, and overall well-being. Such an approach is particularly important when managing chronic conditions, rehabilitation, and mental health, where a comprehensive and personalised approach is crucial. Moreover, we understand that healing and wellness extend beyond medical interventions to include emotional, social, and environmental factors. Embracing the value of our contributions can empower us to take the lead in driving change.

Create a strong narrative for your own role, and for that of your profession. This involves not only showcasing our specialised skills and knowledge but also demonstrating how our work integrates with and complements the efforts of the broader healthcare sector. Pamela Enderby OBE redefined and evolved the scope and nature of speech and language therapy during the 1980s, for example, both in terms of challenging the pay inequity of the time for speech and language therapists and extending the profession’s capacity to positively influence the outcomes of multidisciplinary care.

By effectively communicating the impact of our work, we can gain greater recognition and support. This empowerment positions allied health professionals not just as supporters, but as key drivers of innovation and progress in healthcare.

For example, see our article 10 Ways Allied Health Can Keep People Out of Hospital.

Becoming agents of change

The healthcare landscape is ripe for innovation, particularly in the realms of prevention, rehabilitation, and chronic disease management.

As allied health professionals, we possess the knowledge, skills, and passion to drive these innovations. Our expertise in patient care, combined with an in-depth understanding of various health conditions, enables us to develop and champion new research that can lead to ground-breaking treatments and interventions. This research is not just limited to clinical advancements but also extends to improving healthcare delivery systems, enhancing patient engagement, and promoting public health initiatives.

By championing new research, spearheading initiatives, or implementing fresh treatment methodologies, we can become the leaders of positive change. These initiatives could range from community-based health promotion programs to interdisciplinary collaborations aimed at developing holistic care models. By taking the lead in these areas, we can set a precedent for proactive, rather than reactive, approaches in healthcare.

Implementing fresh treatment methodologies is also pivotal. By integrating the latest research findings into practice, utilising innovative technologies, and adopting patient-centred care models, we can significantly improve patient outcomes.

Collaboration over competition

Driving innovation doesn’t mean isolating ourselves.

Collaborative efforts, whether interdisciplinary or within our own professions, can yield more robust and well-rounded solutions. Open communication allows for the sharing of ideas, challenges, and successes, breaking down traditional barriers that have existed within the healthcare sector, paving the way for a more integrated and cohesive approach to patient care.

Co-creating the future of healthcare through these partnerships and dialogues allows for a blending of skills and knowledge, leading to innovative practices and interventions that are tailored to meet the needs of patients as they evolve. This shift from competition to collaboration not only enhances the quality of care but also contributes to a more sustainable and efficient healthcare system.

What is initially met with suspicion and skepticism can be overcome with clearly communicated treatment goals and methodologies, a well-articulated intention to collaborate for better patient outcomes, and a successfully demonstrated proof of concept. The work done by advanced scope physiotherapists at Rockingham General Hospital ED is a pertinent example of this in action, where Piers Truter and his team were able to not only improve care outcomes, but also the efficiencies and acceptance of their medical colleagues in the ED.

By forging strong partnerships and engaging in meaningful dialogues, we can break down barriers and co-create the future of healthcare.

Building a culture of ownership

Ownership is about believing in the power of our ideas and being accountable for their outcomes, and it’s a mindset that goes beyond mere responsibility; it involves a deep-seated commitment to the welfare of our patients and the effectiveness of our healthcare practices.

By cultivating a culture of ownership, we foster an environment where every allied health professional feels responsible for driving change, advocating for our roles, and making impactful decisions.

Additionally, when each allied health professional feels a sense of ownership over their work, it encourages a more collaborative and supportive work environment. It breaks down silos between different disciplines and promotes a more unified approach to patient care. In such an environment, everyone is motivated to contribute their best, knowing that their input is valued and can make a real difference.

In essence, building a culture of ownership in healthcare means fostering a proactive, engaged, and responsible workforce. It’s about creating a community of allied health professionals who are not only skilled and knowledgeable but also deeply committed to their roles as caregivers and innovators. This culture is the bedrock upon which high-quality, patient-centred care is built, ensuring that the healthcare system remains responsive, effective, and compassionate

Invest in lifelong learning

One of the core tenets of innovation is continuous learning. By staying updated with the latest research, technology, and trends, we can proactively identify opportunities and devise innovative solutions.

Regular professional development and fostering a culture of curiosity can pave the way for ground-breaking advancements. It’s not just about staying relevant; it’s about leading the way in innovation and ensuring the highest quality of patient care.

In conclusion

The future of healthcare is not just in the hands of doctors or managers; it’s in the hands of every healthcare professional, including those in the allied health fields. By shifting our mindset from seeking permission to actively driving innovation and owning our space, we not only empower ourselves but also elevate the care we provide to our patients. Let’s lead the way, shaping the future of healthcare with passion, expertise, and unwavering dedication.

Are you a health professional in a leadership role or a future leader in health? We’re launching the Health Leaders Global Collective in 2024, a multidisciplinary community of practice for health professionals. Please visit The Allied Health Academy to stay updated. 

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