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Feature Profile: Rachael Moorin

“As a health economist, I am interested in resource use and efficiency, while as a health services researcher, I am interested in equity and the effect of health policy on access and health outcomes.”

Can you describe your research in everyday terms?

The research I am conducting relates to the ageing population and its impact on use of health services. Currently my main project is determining if contact with GP’s influences potentially preventable hospital admissions and emergency department presentations.

Other projects I am involved in are related to health service use by those with cancer, providing support for carers of persons with cancer, discharge planning for the elderly, medication safety and management of chronic disease.

What first drew you to your research topic?

As a health economist I am interested in resource use and efficiency while as a health services researcher I am interested in equity and the effect of health policy on access and health outcomes.  One of the major drivers of health care cost and policy development in Australia currently is the ageing of the population and the growth of chronic disease.  The effect of demographic change and the introduction of policy (often in an evidence free zone) to manage the impact of these changes provides a rich environment for health services research in Australia.  This together with the availability of an internationally recognised system of linked administrative data available to researchers in Western Australia provides the opportunity for complex evaluation of these issues at the population level.

What research problems and areas are you likely to explore in the future?

My future research is likely to focus on differences in practice across providers and how these impact cost and patient outcomes. The Australian health system is largely financed by a fee-for-service payment system. This system is meant to create efficiencies and reduce waste thought to be associated with per-capita or block funding. However these systems create perverse incentives which reward clinicians for over servicing, do not have built in mechanisms for rewarding evidence-based best practice and are not linked to patient outcomes. The largely privately operated out-of-hospital pathology and diagnostic imaging sectors are particularly problematic in their incentivisation of over servicing. Determining the extent and patterns of appropriate and over servicing activity is important both for improving patient outcomes and aiding with sustainability of the system.

Please tell us about things you enjoy when not researching?

While not researching I enjoy playing the Saxophone (poorly).  My husband is a musician currently studying Jazz at the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts (WAAPA) and my son plays Clarinet at School, so we quite often play music together at home.

Associate Professor Rachael Moorin is Programme Leader of Health Services Research in the Centre for Population Health Research at Curtin University.