Sign up for Health Research Trax – your research network provided by Western Alliance.Register Now

Epworth HealthCare: Leading academic health care in the private, not-for-profit sector

Background

Epworth HealthCare is Victoria’s largest not-for-profit health care provider, and in 2016 will care for over 200 000 patients, across 10 hospitals in Victoria. Established in 1920, Epworth is a leading service provider of acute and subacute clinical services, including cardiology, general surgery, obstetrics and gynaecology, oncology, orthopaedics, neurosurgery, rehabilitation and urology.

Epworth undertakes more than 10 000 admissions for cancer per year, approximately one-quarter of all prostate cancer operations in Victoria and one-third of all breast and gynaecological cancer operations in Victoria.
Orthopaedic surgery is particularly strong, with Epworth providing more than 2000 hip, knee and shoulder arthroplasties per year, the largest number of joint replacements anywhere in Australia. Overall, Epworth provides approximately one in five joint replacement operations in Victoria.

Epworth is proud to be at the cutting edge of a number of new technologies and procedures. For instance, Epworth pioneered the introduction of robotic-assisted surgery into Australia 12 years ago, and remains the largest provider nationally.

Other innovations include being the first Australian private hospital group to offer open-heart surgery, laser-guided pacemaker and the first intensive care unit in a private hospital, beginning in 1980.
Epworth has the highest engagement with medical practitioners of any health service in Victoria, with 3300 doctors credentialled to work clinically through Epworth’s hospitals and health services.

Research at Epworth

By 2017, Epworth seeks to become the leading academic health care organisation in the Victorian private sector. This is embodied in the Epworth strategic plan and its purpose statement: ‘to improve the health,  wellbeing and experience of every patient by integrating clinical practice with education and research’.

This is also consistent with the Epworth Foundation Act 1980 (Vic.), under which Epworth has been promulgated. The nexus between health care, education and research is pivotal to achieving this goal, and  Epworth will soon be releasing its Research Strategic Plan, which will focus on innovative, evidence-based patient care, a research-engaged workforce and becoming a leading academic health care organisation.
Epworth is on an upward trajectory in terms of its research capability and capacity. For instance, Epworth has more than 150 clinical researchers who are ‘research active’, as measured by research publications in refereed journals over the past three years, applications to Epworth’s Human Research Ethics Committee and awarding of research funding to support their research.

There are currently over 250 research projects underway at Epworth, with an annual increase in publication averaging around 30 per cent, and the number of conference presentations increasing by around 35 per cent per annum.
The Epworth Research Institute was established in 2009 to facilitate and foster research in major and emerging areas of health care across the Epworth group, ensuring close collaboration with clinical practice. We are continuing to build a corpus of funds to foster research activities at Epworth and to support researchers in their early careers. To date, this research corpus stands at over $10 million, which will enable us to support an increasing number of research projects that are submitted for funding on an annual basis.

Collaborative links

Epworth has robust collaborative links with universities, including Deakin, Monash and The University of Melbourne, and medical research institutes such as the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute and the Hudson Institute of Medical Research.

A number of Epworth researchers are chief investigators with Category 1 funding who have received funding support through the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) and the Australian Research Council (ARC). The conduct of these clinical research projects is well supported by Epworth through its clinical translational mandate and capacity to implement clinical findings in the patient and hospital setting.

Epworth has well-established collaborative links that feed into the Western Alliance, specifically through key relationships, in particular with Deakin University. This is at a number of levels, but three Epworth researchers have professorial appointments with Deakin: Mari Botti, Professor of Nursing; Glenn Guest, Professor of Surgery and a colorectal surgeon; and Nilmini Wickramasinghe, Professor of Health Informatics Management. The research groups headed by these professors have a growing research footprint that relies heavily on collaboration with other researchers within Epworth, Deakin University and external partners.

There are also a number of other projects that are now being conceptualised, in areas such as 3D printing of surgical implants, which is a rapidly growing area featuring strong collaborations between Epworth and a cross-disciplinary group at Deakin University, including the School of Engineering and the Health Informatics Management Group within the Faculty of Health.

Research opportunities with Epworth 

Epworth is particularly interested in developing robust and productive research collaborations through Western Alliance and its partners, where it can ‘value-add’ in providing proof-of-concept in a clinical/translational setting.

This will only increase with the opening of Epworth Geelong, a state-of-the-art, private hospital adjacent to Deakin University in Waurn Ponds, due to open early in July 2016. Further, opening of the South West Regional Cancer Centre in Warrnambool is ahead of schedule, and this facility is due to open in mid-July 2016.

There are clear research opportunities in a number of clinical disciplines, in particular engaging in clinical trials that embrace both public and private hospital patients and clinics in the western region.