UNE faculty collaborate for physical therapy, health informatics research project

Erin Hartigan and Nan Solomons
Erin Hartigan and Nan Solomons

May 19, 2017

University of New England faculty members Nan Solomons, Ph.D., Health Informatics practicum coordinator, and Erin Hartigan, D.P.T., Ph.D., OCS, ATC, associate professor of Physical Therapy, were recently awarded a mini-grant by the UNE Office of Sponsored Programs.

Solomons and Hartigan will use this grant to evaluate the following question: What are the barriers and facilitators to the adoption of and adherence to a criterion‐based rehabilitation progression program post Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) reconstruction and subsequent effects on outcomes? They will look at how physical therapist’s adherence to best practices may affect patients’ (athletes) return to sport.

According to Solomons, the research was inspired by Hartigan’s experience as a physical therapist and lifelong athlete. The two researchers will work with a local physical therapy practice to explore how quickly patients with ACL injuries return to sport and whether health care plans are tied to health outcomes.

The way physical therapists utilize Electronic Medical Records (EMR) in patient care is a crucial piece of the puzzle. Hartigan recruited Solomons to join the project because of her background in health informatics and specifically EMR best practices and quality improvement. That experience will enable the team to evaluate the way physical therapists at the practice use the EMR data to develop the plan of care for patients recovering from ACL surgery.

Solomons will also analyze and build out pieces of the EMR that might be missing that prevent PTs from increasing the quality of their care plans post-ACL reconstruction. To explain how an EMR system might be lacking, Solomons draws a comparison is familiar to many people. “For example, imagine you had only Notepad on your computer and not Microsoft Word,” she says. “You wouldn’t be able to bold any text or create bullet points or numbered lists, so you wouldn’t get the results you want.” Part of the research will involve analyzing gaps in the current EMR system that could be affecting patient care and outcomes.

Solomons explains that the mini-grant will allow them to create a “proof of concept” through conducting the foundational research to see what needs to be figured out. Success with the mini-grant lays the groundwork to potentially apply for future funding to conduct a more thorough investigation. In June, the investigators will present a poster on their preliminary findings at the Center on Health Services Training and Research (CoHSTAR) Conference in Boston.

To learn more about the College of Graduate and Professional studies, visit online.une.edu

To learn more about the University of New England’s Westbrook College of Health Professions visit www.une.edu/wchp

To apply, visit www.une.edu/admissions

Groups audience: