Background: Indigenous Australians are slightly more than 2% of the total Australian population however, in recent years they have comprised between 6 and 10% of new patients beginning treatment for end-stage kidney disease (ESKD). Although transplant is considered the optimal form of treatment for many ESKD patients there is a pronounced disparity between the rates at which Indigenous ESKD patients receive transplants compared with their non-Indigenous counterparts. The IMPAKT (Improving Access to Kidney Transplants) Interview study investigated reasons for this disparity through a large scale, in-depth interview study involving patients, nephrologists and key decision-making staff at selected Australian transplant and dialysis sites.
Methods: The design and conduct of the study reflected the multi-disciplinary membership of the core IMPAKT team. Promoting a participatory ethos, IMPAKT established partnerships with a network of hospital transplant units and hospital dialysis treatment centres that provide treatment to the vast majority of Indigenous patients across Australia. Under their auspices, the IMPAKT team conducted in-depth interviews in 26 treatment/service centres located in metropolitan, regional and remote Australia. Peer interviewing supported the engagement of Indigenous patients (146), and nephrologists (19). In total IMPAKT spoke with Indigenous and non-Indigenous patients (241), key renal nursing and other (non-specialist) staff (95) and a small number of relevant others (28). Data analysis was supported by QSR software. At each site, IMPAKT also documented educational programs and resources, mapped an hypothetical 'patient journey' to transplant through the local system and observed patient care and treatment routines.
Discussion: The national scope, inter-disciplinary approach and use of qualitative methods in an investigation of a significant health inequality affecting Indigenous people is, we believe, an Australian first. An exceptionally large cohort of Indigenous participants provided evaluative comment on their health services in relation to dialysis and transplant. Additionally, the data includes extensive parallel commentary from a cohort of specialists, nurses and other staff. The study considers a 'patient journey' to transplant within a diverse range of Australian treatment centre/workplace settings. The IMPAKT Interview study protocol may contribute to improvements in multi-disciplinary, flexible design health services research with hard to reach or vulnerable populations in Australia and elsewhere.