Our research in the

Improving Clinical Care theme

The Improving Clinical Care theme includes research staff, research students and professional staff from a variety of backgrounds including physiotherapy, chiropractic, rheumatology and emergency medicine.

Australia’s CareTrack study showed that Australians get the right care at only 60% of healthcare visits. In this theme, we work with clinicians, patients and policymakers to implement the latest research knowledge so that patients receive the very best healthcare – every time.

IMH-led projects

We hope that the implementation of a new model of care for acute low back pain will make an enormous difference to the health outcomes of patients when visiting an emergency department (ED) and improve the quality of emergency services.

The SHaPED trial aims to improve ED practices through implementing an evidence-based model of care for acute low back pain and evaluating the effects on healthcare services, patient outcomes, and cost compared with usual emergency care. Low back pain patients presenting to EDs often receive complex and unnecessary interventions (e.g. imaging and opioids) yet miss out on the basics of care such as advice on how to self-manage the condition. The Agency for Clinical Innovation (ACI) has recently published a model of care for acute low back pain. The key messages for practice are that non-serious acute low back pain does not require imaging, simple analgesics should be the first option for medicine, and patients should be managed as outpatients. Timely referral and scheduled follow-up reviews are also recommended. At present, active implementation of the ACI model of care and its effects have not been evaluated, and passive dissemination (i.e. publication on a website) is unlikely to change ED practices.

This project is no longer recruiting.

Principal Investigator: Professor Chris Maher (IMH)

Chief Investigators: Dr Gustavo Machado (IMH), Dr Bethan Richards (IMH), Dr Chris Needs (SLHD), Dr James Edwards (SLHD), Dr Eileen Rogan (SLHD), Dr Rochelle Facer (SLHD), Dr David Lord Cowell (ISHLD), Professor Ian Harris (IMH), Professor Rachelle Buchbinder (Monash University), Ms Danielle Coombs (IMH), Associate Professor Laurent Billot (University of Sydney), Professor Kirsten Howard (University of Sydney) and Professor Kirsten McCaffery (University of Sydney).

For more information about this project, please visit the SHaPED Trial Website or contact Dr Gustavo Machado. The project has received ethics approval from Sydney Local Health District, is funded by Sydney Health Partners, and is endorsed by the Australia & New Zealand Musculoskeletal (ANZMUSC) Clinical Trials Network.


ANZBACK is a Centre of Research Excellence funded by the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) for four years (2020-2023).

ANZBACK’s aim is to produce major improvements in health outcomes for people with low back pain. To achieve this, a network of world leading back pain researchers are working in partnership with leading researchers from health policy/systems, health economics, data linkage, health literacy/shared decision-making, and implementation science.

To learn more about ANZBACK and how you could be involved as a researcher, policy maker, health professional or consumer please visit the ANZBACK website.

Principal Investigator: Professor Chris Maher (IMH)

Chief Investigators: Professor Rachelle Buchbinder (Monash University), Professor Mark Hancock (Macquarie University), Professor Peter O’Sullivan (Curtin University), Professor James McAuley (University of New South Wales), Professor Fiona Blyth (University of Sydney), Professor Louisa Jorm (University of New South Wales), Professor Alex Collie (Monash University), Professor Kirsten McCaffery (University of Sydney), Professor Alison Hayes (University of Sydney).

Collaborative projects

ANZMUSC Clinical Trials Network has been established by research leaders with funding from the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) for five years (2018-2022) and is being led by Monash University.

ANZMUSC Clinical Trials Network’s vision is to optimise musculoskeletal health through high quality, collaborative clinical research. They aim to do this through identifying key clinical research questions, improving the quality of research, increasing translation of research into policy and practice, fostering collaborations, endorsing clinical research, and advancing research through mentoring and education.

Principal Investigator: Professor Rachelle Buchbinder (Monash University)

Institute for Musculoskeletal Health Investigators: Professor Chris Maher (IMH), Professor Ian Harris (IMH), Professor Jane Latimer (IMH) and Professor Christine Lin (IMH).

For more information, please visit ANZMUSC Clinical Trials Network.

Theme leader: Professor Chris Maher

BAppSc(Phty), GradDipAppSc(ExSpSc), GradDipAppSc(ManipPhty), PhD, DMedSc, FACP, FAAHMS

Professor Chris Maher is an NHMRC Principal Research Fellow and Fellow of the Australian Academy of Health and Medical Sciences. His clinical training is in physiotherapy and he is a fellow of the Australian College of Physiotherapy. Chris is best known for his clinical research evaluating the management of low back pain which has been published in leading journals including New England Journal of Medicine, Lancet, Annals of Internal Medicine and British Medical Journal.