Behavioural research investment to improve patient safety

In March 2017, BehaviourWorks Australia and the Victorian Managed Insurance Authority (VMIA) joined forces to develop and deliver a $1.5m Patient Safety Research and Innovation Program to improve patient safety in public healthcare.

* Please note that this project has now concluded and topline results can be found here.

The VMIA provides risk advice and insurance services for the Victorian Government and works with more than 4,300 clients, including government departments, health centres, community service organisations and tertiary institutions to improve the quality of life for the Victorian community.

The challenge:
Translating evidence-based research into best practice and, by extension, improve patient safety
Victorian Managed Insurance Authority and The Shannon Company

What are we doing?

The three-year program kicked off with a series of Facilitated Dialogues with VMIA, the Department of Health and Human Services and the health sector stakeholders.

As part of this process, the BWA team documented world-leading research and healthcare practices and identify opportunities for improvements to Victorian health services.


Six high priority areas were identified. From this, six highly targeted, evidence-based interventions were developed for trial across the health system between 2017 and 2019.

These are in the areas of good governance (how to help health boards communicate more effectively), tools to reduce the incidence of misdiagnosis, how to empower patients to have more of a voice in their healthcare, improving the escalation of care when patients deteriorate, optimising the transfer of sick patients between hospitals and how to improve patient-informed consent processes.

Each intervention is being thoroughly evaluated for its potential in preventing harm and improving the patient experience by creating, synthesising and translating research knowledge and evidence into policies, practices, processes and tools for use within Victorian healthcare facilities.

Thought leadership

The program demonstrates VMIA’s thought-leadership in recognising the potential of using behavioural science to better understand how our hospitals work – and why things go wrong in the first place.

It also demonstrates government commitment to continuous improvement in our healthcare system for the benefit of Victorian patients and their families.

“We are thrilled with the opportunity to be involved in this newly-launched program,” said BehaviourWorks Australia Director, Associate Professor Liam Smith.

“Translating research into practice is a key goal for many academics and we’re looking forward to working in partnership with VMIA to use current behaviour change approaches to deliver meaningful outcomes in health and research.”

VMIA Chief Executive, Colin Radford, added:

“As the State’s insurer, VMIA is pleased to be investing in initiatives to prevent and reduce harm to Victorian families.

“Our commitment to this research program allows us to draw on the expertise of academics, healthcare professionals and the insurance industry to make a real difference.”

The Shannon Company is the creative lead on the VMIA Research and Innovation Program, developing compelling video and print content to engage health services staff to participate in the program and contribute valuable skills and knowledge. The Shannon Company is a specialist Behaviour Change communications company that inspires people to change their behaviour – willingly and for good.

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