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Improving the management of whiplash-associated disorders by physiotherapists and chiropractors

In early 2008, the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) presented Dr Saravana Kumar with the National Institute for Clinical Studies (NICS) Fellowship, co-sponsored by TRACsa: Trauma and Injury Recovery and the Motor Accident Commission of South Australia (MAC). Recently, TRACsa was dissolved and all operations taken over by MAC.

Dr. Saravana Kumar utilised this fellowship to address the internationally recognised issue of improving the management of people with Whiplash-Associated Disorders (WAD) by physiotherapists and chiropractors.

Nationally and internationally, WAD accounts for 42% of the 6,000 Compulsory Third Party (CTP) claims and a third of costs, which is more than $120 million per year. People suffering from whiplash-associated disorders (WAD) are currently offered a range of costly treatment and rehabilitation options, but despite this many patients remain in constant pain and develop long-term complaints.

Over the two year span of this project, Dr Kumar aimed to improve processes and outcomes of health care by implementing TRACsa's new clinical guidelines for best practice management of acute and chronic whiplash-associated disorders. In order to achieve this Dr Kumar worked with physiotherapists, chiropractors and consumers. The ultimate goal of the fellowship project was to address the broadening gap between evidence and current practice in the management of WAD.

As part of his project, Dr Kumar assessed current practice in the management of WAD and provided a multi-dimensional strategy to support guideline implementation by physiotherapists and chiropractors. Recognising the growing and important role of consumers, this research provided consumers with TRACsa's 'guide for injured people' to assist their understanding of WAD and available treatment options. This website is another tangible outcome of this Fellowship.

By working together with health care providers and consumers, and identifying their unique perspectives of guideline implementation, Dr Kumar addressed the current evidence-practice gap in WADs management.

Evidence implementation is a complex science and our understanding on how to implement evidence into practice successfully is growing on a daily basis. What made this project unique was that it brought in stakeholders of WAD (providers and consumers) and identified from their perspective what worked and what didn't in evidence implementation, and its influence on health care processes and outcomes. Lessons learned from this project will help inform future projects as well. This project also gave Dr Kumar the ideal opportunity to work with experts in the field and learn from them.

Dr Kumar was supported in this initiative by two mentors. Professor Karen Grimmer, iCAHE Director, who was the project mentor while Dr Richenda Webb was the NICS mentor. Professor Grimmer and Dr Webb worked closely with Dr Kumar throughout the project, providing guidance on processes and outcomes of the Fellowship.

More information about the fellowship project:

Go to the Guideline Tools page to find a copy of the MAC guidelines that were implemented in this project.

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