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OPTIMISE: a pragmatic stepped wedge cluster randomised trial of an intervention to improve primary care for refugees in Australia

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posted on 2022-01-17, 05:25 authored by GM Russell, K Long, Virginia LewisVirginia Lewis, JC Enticott, N Gunatillaka, IH Cheng, Geraldine MarshGeraldine Marsh, S Vasi, J Advocat, S Saito, H Song, S Casey, M Smith, MF Harris
Objectives: To examine whether primary care outreach facilitation improves the quality of care for general practice patients from refugee backgrounds. Design: Pragmatic, cluster randomised controlled trial, with stepped wedge allocation to early or late intervention groups. Setting, participants: 31 general practices in three metropolitan areas of Sydney and Melbourne with high levels of refugee resettlement, November 2017 ‒ August 2019. Intervention: Trained facilitators made three visits to practices over six months, using structured action plans to help practice teams optimise routines of refugee care. Major outcome measure: Change in proportion of patients from refugee backgrounds with documented health assessments (Medicare billing). Secondary outcomes were refugee status recording, interpreter use, and clinician-perceived difficulty in referring patients to appropriate dental, social, settlement, and mental health services. Results: Our sample comprised 14 633 patients. The intervention was associated with an increase in the proportion of patients with Medicare-billed health assessments during the preceding six months, from 19.1% (95% CI, 18.6–19.5%) to 27.3% (95% CI, 26.7–27.9%; odds ratio, 1.88; 95% CI, 1.42–2.50). The impact of the intervention was greater in smaller practices, practices with larger proportions of patients from refugee backgrounds, recent training in refugee health care, or higher baseline provision of health assessments for such patients. There was no impact on refugee status recording, interpreter use increased modestly, and reported difficulties in refugee-specific referrals to social, settlement and dental services were reduced. Conclusions: Low intensity practice facilitation may improve some aspects of primary care for people from refugee backgrounds. Facilitators employed by local health services could support integrated approaches to enhancing the quality of primary care for this vulnerable population. Trial registration: Australian New Zealand Clinical Trials Registry, ACTRN12618001970235 (retrospective).


The OPTIMISE project was co-funded by the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) Partnerships for Better Health Scheme (APP1106372) and the following partner organisations: Monash Health, cohealth, enliven, the Victorian Department of Health and Human Services, the Victorian Refugee Health Network, the NSW Refugee Health Service, the South Eastern Health Providers Association, North Western Melbourne Primary Health Network, South Western Sydney Primary Health Network, AMES Australia, Settlement Services International, and the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners. Partner organisations contributed to the study design and dissemination through involvement in a National Project Advisory Group.


Publication Date



Medical Journal of Australia






(p. 420-426)





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© 2021 The Authors. Medical Journal of Australia published by John Wiley & Sons Australia, Ltd on behalf of AMPCo Pty Ltd This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs License, which permits use and distribution in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited, the use is non- commercial and no modifications or adaptations are made.