Members of the College of Radiographers Industry Partnership Scheme gathered at the Kings Fund, London, recently to hear how their vital contributions to radiography research were being put to good use.
Dr Rachel Harris, professional and education manager at the SCoR, kicked off the day emphasising the importance of research, and how her own personal experience of being a patient served as a poignant reminder of how research is fundamental to improving the lives of patients.
“What’s important to remember about research is that it’s one of the four core domains of practice. Of course clinical practice is important to us as radiographers, it’s everything we do, but if we don’t underpin it with education, research and good leadership we can’t move forward,” she said.
“Unfortunately, last year I was a cancer patient myself, and I saw first hand how important research and education is to our profession.
“Thanks to research I only had to undergo three weeks of radiotherapy, when a few years ago that would have been five weeks. I can tell you as a patient two weeks is a lot of time, a lot of extra travelling and a lot of extra stress.”
Rachel also extended her thanks to the CoRIPS partners in attendance, emphasising that “without your contributions a lot of the projects you will hear about today and see on the website would never come to fruition”.
Professor Heidi Probst, professor of radiotherapy and oncology at Sheffield Hallam University, explained in detail the conception of the new SCoR research priorities and how some of the funding from CoRIPS partners would be put to use.
“With the introduction of the new SCoR research strategy we realised it was time to refresh the priorities as well. The priorities should reflect what’s new and what’s coming in the future, to make sure that the research that’s funded takes the profession forward,” she said.
Heidi explained how an expert panel selected from SCoR specialist groups led the robust process, which included a comprehensive Delphi study and snowball sampling, narrowed down the list to four overarching areas which make up the priorities.
“What we have to do now is make sure the priorities are used and linked to our CoRIPS funding awards and we make sure we are auditing research projects to ensure they are meeting the priorities,” Heidi concluded.
Radiography research mentorship
Dr Christina Malamateniou, research lead at the University of Greenwich, talked the audience through the recently launched Formal Radiography Research Mentorship scheme (FoRRM).
Christina highlighted that although radiographers are engaging more with research, there are more research radiographers, more radiographers submitting conference papers and posters and more research grants being given out to radiographers, there are still many barriers.
Lots of clinical radiographers don’t have the time in their busy schedule, the confidence, the relevant skillset, or the infrastructure to undertake research.
The FoRMM mentorship scheme, which has been given funding by CoRIPS, aims to help overcome some of these challenges by providing structured support from experienced researchers to help guide radiographers through the research process.
“As research grows, we need to foster research excellence to ensure high quality and high impact research outputs,” Christina said.
She concluded: “Is research such a big, terrible scary monster? Not if you have a good mentor to hold your hand!”
Changing attitudes with social media
Dr Leslie Robinson from the University of Salford and one of the founders of the Word of Mouth e-Network (WoMMeN), the SCoR Team of the Year for 2016, described how the group had used CoRIPS funding to help mammography practitioners communicate with people online.
The project set out to examine what the barriers to online communication were and find what actions could be taken to enable better communication.
“Patients are much further ahead than health professionals on using social media. If we had an authoritative voice on there, we would be able to make sure the information on there is accurate,” Leslie said.
The research took the form of workshops around the country, which yielded concerns around two main themes, one being working within professional boundaries and the other support from management.
Leslie and the team now plan to continue their work in promoting the WoMMeN hub and building on their successes.
Bone density and injury in young athletes
Lucy Ashton, senior lecturer at the University of Exeter Medical School, presented her research into the effect on bone density for young athletes who have had suffered an injury.
The study used a combination of techniques, including dual energy x-ray absorptiometry (DXA), quantative ultrasound scanning, blood samples and questionnaires to better understand high volume training in power sports and long term impact of injury on the bone health of young athletes.
Lucy stressed that understanding this area in more depth would help to prevent injuries such as stress fractures, in turn allowing young athletes to fulfil their potential and reduce the burden on wider health services.
Simulation based learning
Dr Robert Appleyard from Sheffield Hallam University walked delegates through CoRIPS-funded research focused on simulation-based learning (SBE), and how this technique could be optimised to prepare radiotherapy students for the clinical environment.
Robert explained the drivers behind the project, saying: “I think we’ll be facing a situation in the future where our placement partners will be approaching us as an HEI and saying we want to make sure that before your students come out to placements, they can demonstrate confidence and competence.”
The research project aims to canvas opinion from radiographers, service managers, lecturers and students via three rounds of surveys to ascertain the essential qualities needed for clinical placement.
Following this stage, Robert explained the team aims to develop a pilot programme for SBE activities and eventually set out a best-practice guide.
“Data should drive change, it should aid users understanding and it should stimulate conversations,” said Philip Brentall, product strategy manager and clinical lead at CoRIPS partner Healthcare Software Solutions.
Philip was presenting on business intelligence tools in radiology, and explained how software provided by Healthcare Software Solutions was being used to carry out functions such as dose analytics and PACS monitoring to improve inpatient turnaround times, fully utilise resources and cut referral times.
Philip concluded that ‘big data’, as it’s commonly known, is an underused and potentially extremely powerful solution for radiology departments. He emphasised that once expertise had been built up, it could be retaught within departments to maintain high knowledge levels.
Improving the patient pathway and reducing errors
Phil Neale, senior account manager at CoRIPS partner Imaging Equipment Limited, talked through some exciting products offered by the company, both designed to improve the patient pathway and reduce errors.
In particular, Phil spoke about the new advances in MR-guided radiotherapy, of which he said; “This is not just a game-changer in terms of patient outcomes, but the way we approach radiotherapy and particular tumour sites.”
By treating tumours with real-time MR images, patients are getting a safer treatment with less healthy tissue being damaged.
Phil also talked about a product which allows for biometrical identification of the patient, meaning patient records are quickly, securely and accurately stored and accessed when they arrive for treatment.
“It’s about making sure you’ve got the right patient, at the right time, on the right machine for the right fraction,” Phil said.