The tension between efficiency and effectiveness: a study of dietetic practice in primary care
O’Connor et al., JHND Early View
Primary healthcare dietitians have a vital role to play in the prevention and management of chronic disease. Working in primary care requires efficient and effective management of practice to ensure client and practitioner needs are met. The present study aimed to explore the way in which primary care dietitians in Australia view the constructs of efficiency and effectiveness within the context of their practice.
The study used an exploratory qualitative design within a pragmatist framework. Individual semi‐structured telephone interviews were conducted with Australian primary care dietitians. All interviews were audio‐recorded, transcribed verbatim and analysed using an inductive thematic approach.
Twenty dietitians (17 females) working as private practitioners in primary care from three Australian states participated in the present study. Three themes emerged from the data. The first theme revealed that seeking efficiency and especially effectiveness were important to primary care dietitians and that there was a tension between the two. The second theme identified that efficiency and effectiveness are influenced by personal and structural factors. The final theme explored how dietitians are actively seeking ways to be more efficient and effective, including supportive networks, as well as the utilisation of technology.
Achieving a balance between efficiency and effectiveness in primary care dietetics is challenging to practitioners, who may require further training and support to enhance productivity, time management and resource utilisation. Structured issues exist for the workface. Further studies are required to quantify these findings and to explore whether it is possible to optimise efficiency and effectiveness and achieve sustainability of the dietetic workforce in primary care.