Cassie McDonald wins competitive University 3MT competition

Cassie McDonald, a PhD student, physiotherapist and member of teaching staff, recently won the University’s highly competitive Three Minute Thesis (3MT) competition, receiving a $4,000 grant and the opportunity to represent the University at the Asia-Pacific 3MT competition due to be held later this year. You can watch her presentation here.

Headshot of Cassie McDonald

Pictured: Cassie McDonald

‘I was really humbled to win; the other finalists were outstanding. It was a wonderful afternoon watching their presentations on important research that’s happening across the University. 3MT is a great opportunity to develop skills in presenting your research in an accessible manner to a wide audience.’ she said.

Her presentation, entitled ‘More than a place to wait: Untapped potential of hospital waiting areas’ discussed the role that waiting areas and health tools can play in responding to the health literacy needs of patients.

Health literacy has been recognised as a national issue, having been recently incorporated into the National Health Survey in 2018 and the National Safety and Quality Health Service Standards in 2017. Health literacy is the subject of extensive research globally.

‘Health literacy can be considered at two levels: 1) at an individual level and 2) at the health service or system level. My thesis investigated the concept of health literacy responsiveness within a health service setting – the idea that the health service environment might impact a patient’s ability to access, understand and use health information to benefit their health’ she said.

‘Our health systems and environments are quite complex and can be overwhelming or difficult to navigate. It’s important to understand how these environments can better respond to the needs of patients.’

Her research found opportunities for improvement, with consumers highlighting the need for better use of digital technologies to support interactivity and facilitate patient engagement with health information beyond the waiting room. Greater diversity of resources in this respect can support patients who prefer to digest information through audio-visual means rather than text.

‘Consumers also highlighted the physical space – in terms of ensuring that the room layout doesn’t prevent those with mobility aids from accessing health information, or ensuring that text size is accessible for people with visual impairments as examples’ she said.

‘Ensuring a positive social culture is another important consideration, as it can impact a patient’s confidence or ability to engage in peer support such as sharing experiences with other waiting consumers.’

Further research will be required to understand the precise nature of the required interventions. Cassie anticipates that a co-design process, wherein researchers and key stakeholders have equal influence over the research and implementation process, will be required to ensure the best patient outcomes.

‘It should be a really collaborative and consumer-driven process rather than researcher-driven. Importantly, it should include consumers from diverse backgrounds to reflect the community our health system serves’ she said.

‘It would be great to action some of the ideas uncovered during my thesis and work collaboratively with stakeholders to create meaningful change in practice in this way.’

The School congratulates Cassie on this fantastic achievement, and wishes her the best of luck at the upcoming Asia-Pacific 3MT competition.