Barbara M. Doucet, Anne Woodson, Monica Watford; Moving Toward 2017: Progress in Rehabilitation Intervention Effectiveness Research. Am J Occup Ther 2014;68(4):e124-e148. doi: 10.5014/ajot.2014.011874.
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© 2019 American Occupational Therapy Association
Halfway into the 10-yr American Occupational Therapy Association Centennial Vision initiative, occupational therapy has made notable progress in establishing itself as a science-driven profession. Through the diligent work of many talented occupational therapy scholars, 42 research studies exploring interventions used in rehabilitation research were published in the past 5 years. A variety of both novel and established intervention strategies were investigated using diverse research designs and measurement tools. A predominant number of studies were conducted with the poststroke population. Moving forward to 2017 and building on our success, we can recognize our full potential by fostering knowledge translation, expanding participant numbers, exploring less-studied populations, increasing the volume of systematic reviews published, and reporting occupation-centered outcomes, the unique and defining component of our profession.
AOTA’s Centennial Vision: “We envision that occupational therapy is a powerful, widely recognized, science-driven, and evidence-based profession with a globally connected and diverse workforce meeting society’s occupational needs.” (AOTA, 2007, p. 613)
Fostering knowledge translation. Occupational therapy can continue the positive research trend by increasing the volume of rigorous, quality research studies that produce meaningful effectiveness information. Research that affects practice by validating interventions and demonstrating that successful patient outcomes are the direct result of these evidence-based strategies will be most useful. Dissemination of findings to key stakeholders will be essential. Clinicians will need to become more familiar with standardized assessments and implement these tools in daily practice; this is a critical component of quality outcomes research. Scholars and academicians can assist in this effort.
Expanding the number of participants. Studies incorporating larger numbers of participants not only provide more statistical power but also are more easily translated to patient populations to build a foundation of evidence for occupational therapy. Larger patient numbers can result when academics team with clinicians or align with health care organizations for ready access to patient populations. Scholars who diligently solicit outside funding from a variety of sources will have the means to build strong clinical–academic infrastructures that can increase the number of research participants and support intervention effectiveness research.
Conducting research with a variety of populations. Although intervention effectiveness with the stroke population remains challenging and necessary, more work is needed to verify that occupational therapy intervention for patients with brain injury, spinal injury, dementia, and other neurological conditions results in improved health. Research that focuses on the needs and health concerns of the aging population will be required to meet the changing demographics of the United States in the upcoming years.
Publishing a larger number of systematic reviews of the literature. Knowing what evidence currently exists and the meaning of that evidence will be the initial step in developing new and innovative research questions.
Quantifying and centering on occupation-focused practice. Occupational therapy has a vast array of inventive, function-based tools designed to quantify activity, participation, and occupational performance. Payer sources such as the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services now have mandated reporting on functional abilities of clients through the recent G-code implementation (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2012). Our profession is uniquely qualified to assess and explain to others the tremendous impact that meaningful activity exerts on health. We simply must capitalize on our own strengths, use these tools, and report outcomes. No other discipline is more qualified to provide this information. Using a combination of task-level and impairment-level assessments will provide comprehensive client information and data. These are the core tenets of occupational therapy and should therefore be the focus of research designs that demonstrate the importance and necessity of our services.
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