In conversation with: Prof Susannah Ahern, Academic Lead, ADNeT Clinical Quality Registry

This month we caught up with Prof Ahern about the value of clinical registries, and the benefits for both participating clinics and patients.

Prof Ahern MBBS (Hons), MBA, FRACMA, PhD, is the Head of the Registry Sciences Unit at Monash University and Principal Investigator for the Australian Dementia Network (ADNeT) clinical quality registry. She is a member of the Australian Commission in Safety and Quality in Health Care’s Advisory Committee for Clinical Quality Registries (CQRs) and the Commonwealth Department of Health’s CQR Strategy Expert Advisory Group, as well as a member of the Victorian DHHS’s CQR Advisory Group.

“After completing my MBA and working in healthcare management, I saw the need for high quality evidence to inform health system management and quality improvement”, Prof Ahern said.

She subsequently completed a PhD and transitioned to an academic career. The then-Head of the School of Public Health and Preventive Medicine at Monash University, Professor John McNeil, offered her a position in registries, and Prof Ahern quickly realised its potential for system-wide improvement.

“The value of clinical registries is two-fold: Registry data sets are developed from the most recent international and local clinical guidelines through a clinician-led consensus approach, and data regarding the care and management of all people on the registry can be analysed, reported and used to inform clinical care.

“There are also benefits for both clinics and people with dementia to participate. For clinics, participating in the registry may enable better understanding of the characteristics of patient groups, as well as the opportunity to compare performance against other clinic processes and outcomes over time.

“For people with dementia, participating in the registry means that clinicians can use the registry information to develop improvements in the care that they provide for future people. It also means that researchers have a baseline of information from which they can assess new interventions or therapies to determine if they really make a positive difference to people living with dementia.

“Establishing a registry for dementia and mild cognitive impairment is critically important as it provides clinicians and researchers with an unparalleled opportunity to understand how many people are diagnosed every year, as well how their processes of diagnosis and early clinical care varies across Australia. We can use this information over time to see how these factors relate to longer term patient outcomes such as when they might need access to home care packages or move to residential care.”