Identifying and prioritizing allied health research priorities in a regional setting: a modified Delphi protocol

Dr Renee Clapham1,2, Dr John  Aitken3, Jaithri Ananthapavan4, Dr Kevin McNamara2, Dr Anna  Ugalde4, Associate Professor Vincent Versace2, Dr Anna Wong Shee1,2

1Ballarat Health Services, Ballarat, Australia, 2Deakin Rural Health, Deakin University, Warrnambool, Australia, 3Rural Northwest Health, Warracknabeal, Australia, 4Deakin University, Burwood, Australia


AIM: This study links community, allied health professionals (AHPs) and health service managers of the Western Grampians area with academic researchers to identify actionable regional priorities for allied health (AH) research.

METHOD: In Phase 1, surveys and focus groups consisting of community members will be used to understand people’s experiences of AH care and perceived service gaps. In Phase 2, information from Phase 1 will be presented to the priority-setting group consisting of community members, AHPs, service managers and researchers. Using a modified Delphi method, the group will identify and agree on AH research priorities. The Delphi method is an effective approach for collecting opinions from diverse disciplines and it overcomes issues related to peer pressure and power imbalances because it is an anonymous forum.

RESULTS: This study will consult broadly with community, AHPs, health service managers and researchers to reach consensus on regional AH research priorities. It will produce ‘researchable’ topics directly linked to the needs of the people in the Western Grampians region and will inform the development of a strategic regional approach to AH research.

SIGNIFICANCE OF THE FINDINGS TO ALLIED HEALTH: There has not been a systematic approach to identifying research priorities for AH practice in rural and regional areas. Transparent priority setting for allocation of research resources requires a robust consultation process. Engaging practitioners, consumers, and researchers to identify research priorities will help ensure the relevance of health research, facilitate the translation of research findings into practice (clinical implementation) and improve patient outcomes (community benefit).


Dr Renee Clapham, qualified Speech Pathologist and early career researcher (PhD November 2017). Currently in a 3-year DHHS-funded role to build research capability and capacity and support research translation in the Grampians region of Victoria.