As part of our Westmead issue, we are spoke to Dr Danielle Muscat, Westmead Fellow, Sydney Health Literacy Lab. Danielle shares what a day in her life looks like and what working at Westmead means to her.
What does a typical day look like for you and what are you currently working on?
I split my time between University of Sydney Camperdown campus and Westmead Hospital. Across these two sites, I work with the Sydney Health Literacy Lab – a psycho-social research group in the University of Sydney School of Public Health – and the Health Literacy Hub – a locality-based research, development and capacity-building hub including >800 Western Sydney Local Health District staff interested in improving health literacy in Sydney’s west.
No two days are ever really the same, but usually include meetings (lots of meetings!), responding to emails, planning studies, developing health literacy interventions and resources, analysing qualitative and quantitative data, and writing manuscripts. I also coordinate the health literacy seminar series hosted in Westmead.
I am currently leading a number of projects related to health literacy in western Sydney. These projects usually aim to develop and test interventions to help patients to build transferable skills which enable them to access, understand and use information to make decisions about their health and/or interventions to reduce the complexity of health information and the healthcare system.
Specifically related to digital health, we are currently running a project to develop and evaluate a smartphone App for chronic kidney disease patients which provides information to patients based on best-practice health literacy principles as well as embedding interactive health literacy skills training. In another initiative that I am involved in, the Health Literacy Hub is currently developing a new system and online portal to produce patient information in partnership with consumers. This includes all forms of written communication with patients, family members, and the wider general public such as letters, consent forms, patient education materials, pamphlets etc. This is an exciting innovation which builds on our previous work in Illawarra Shoalhaven Local Health District by providing a digital platform to host an innovative health literacy system.
How do you define digital health?
In my mind, digital health is a broad term, encompassing a wide range of technologies to deliver healthcare, disseminate and share health information, and support health behaviours and health promotion.
What do you think will enable digital health projects and innovations to succeed?
As with any project, I think that working with patients and clinicians to co-design digital health innovations is the key to success. A participative and iterative co-design process helps to ensure that the digital solutions we come up with really meet the needs of our end-users; creating a better and more relatable end product and something that is more likely to be implemented and used.
Have you come across any surprises or challenges along the way?
I don’t think I have ever had a research project that was without challenges! It’s all about working with your team to overcome them!
What are some of the highlights of working at Westmead?
I really enjoy my time at Westmead. This is because I get to work directly with the clinicians, patients and consumers that my research aims to help. It is wonderful to work side-by-side with them, generate ideas together and run research projects that align with real-world priorities and needs. The research environment in the Research and Education Network is also very collegial and supportive, which is great!
Another highlight of working with Westmead is the wonderfully diverse population that the health district serves; 46.8% of residents were born overseas and 50.3% speak a language other than English at home. Western Sydney Local Health District also has the highest urban population of Aboriginal people in New South Wales. While this undoubtedly poses challenges for us as researchers, I enjoy working with my colleagues and students to develop projects and innovations that can meaningfully support this diverse population.
Do you have any interesting resources or helpful networks people should know about?
There are a growing number of great resources related to patient involvement and co-design which can be applied to digital health projects. I have found the Agency for Clinical Innovation’s ‘Guide to Build Co‑design Capability’ and the Australian Healthcare and Hospitals Association and Consumers Forum of Australia’s toolkit on Experience Based Co-design particularly useful. Those interested may also like to join PACER Network; a network established to facilitate knowledge exchange, cross-disciplinary collaboration, and innovation in conducting and implementing patient-centred outcomes research and patient involvement in research.
For all-things health literacy, check out the Sydney Health Literacy Lab (USyd) and Health Literacy Hub (WSLHD).
Connect with Danielle:
A huge thank you to Danielle for being a Westmead feature this month!
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