November 20, 2019

Bridging the knowledge gap for pelvic floor disorder care

Photo supplied by the University of Alberta.

Educating women and community caregivers

One in three women is affected by pelvic floor disorders.

These disorders not only negatively impact women both physically and mentally, but can also carry a social stigma.

Care for pelvic floor disorder patients is in high demand, and for immigrant women in particular, access to care can be even more challenging. A dedicated research team at the Lois Hole Hospital for Women’s Pelvic Floor Clinic is uncovering why new immigrants are harder to reach with information and less likely to access care.

Working together to remove barriers and improve care for these women, the team—led by urogynecologist Annick Poirier—looked at the knowledge of urinary incontinence and pelvic organ prolapse among women who were new immigrants compared to those born in Canada.

“Through our research, we see that newcomers are not as knowledgeable about the services available, and are further impacted by language barriers and cultural differences,” says Poirier.

Jane Schulz, interim chair of the department of Obstetrics and Gynecology and a member of the research team, notes that through this project they are finding ways to educate women on pelvic floor disorders and connect patients with correct pathways to care.

“We’re trying to do research that has direct knowledge translation and direct impact on clinical innovation and efficiencies,” explains Schulz. “We’re also working to collaborate not only within the Edmonton Zone but also across the province to move programs forward.”

The Pelvic Floor Clinic has introduced online pelvic floor disorder modules for patients to complete prior to their initial appointment. This helps educate women on the disorders and decreases the time for intake appointments by 30 minutes. As well, the clinic now offers intake classes twice per week. Patients receive a basic presentation by a physician and specialty nurse and are provided resources, community tools, and a care path to follow.

“Since May 2019, we are finding one-third of patients don’t feel they need an appointment with our clinic after completing the online modules and intake session, and this is improving how we connect patients with the proper care,” says Schulz.

The team was able to leverage additional health advocacy funding from the Alberta Medical Association to address knowledge gaps amongst Edmonton immigrants. They created and are providing classes to community health providers and developed new informative pamphlets on pelvic floor disorders for women in eight languages.

The program has already proven to be quite successful; removing barriers for populations who previously experienced trouble accessing much-needed care.

“Getting more information to these women opens possibilities, closes the knowledge gap and makes it easier for us to help these women with life-changing results,” says Schulz.

This project has received CRISP, Resident and Summer Studentship funding by the Alberta Women’s Health Foundation through the Women and Children’s Health Research Institute.