Innovator Spotlight Q&A Series: Julie Keysor, PhD, PT
The CIDH Innovator Spotlight is a Q&A series that celebrates innovative ideas, highlights the important work that digital health innovators are doing to advance patient care and outcomes at Mass General Hospital, and shares key learnings about the innovation journey.
We are pleased to feature Julie J. Keysor, PhD, PT, Professor of the Department of Physical Therapy at the Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) Institute of Health Professions (IHP). In this Innovator Spotlight, learn about her innovative approach to preventing premature employment amongst adults with chronic rheumatological and musculoskeletal conditions such as arthritis, lupus, and back pain. Dr. Keysor’s project is a great example of how innovative ideas can be brought to life by effectively leveraging the Mass General Brigham network.
Q: Tell us about your innovation and the challenge(s) you were trying to solve.
JK: Preventing premature employment cessation is a critical priority for employed adults with chronic rheumatological and musculoskeletal conditions such as arthritis, lupus, and back pain. My colleagues and I developed an innovative barrier identification and problem-solving approach delivered by physical and occupational therapists that were effective at maintaining employment over two years for people with chronic rheumatological and musculoskeletal conditions who were at risk of premature employment cessation. The intervention is innovative but now I am working with a new set of innovations as I move to implement the evidence-based intervention into practice. The MGH Institute of Health Professions has great graduate students in the health and rehabilitation fields, and part of my innovative idea is to see if graduate health professional students with support from expert clinicians and faculty could deliver the evidence-based approach in an effective manner. Furthermore, the Mass General Brigham health system affords many great opportunities for the implementation of a novel clinical program. Today’s technologies for remote care when appropriate and linkages with the medical record also allow great opportunities. The resources within MGB are outstanding but the system is so large it’s difficult to know where and how to begin.
Q: The innovation process can be long and challenging, but also rewarding. What inspired you to begin this journey?
Try to connect with groups that are supporting bringing innovations into the system. There’s a lot happening at MGB and it’s helpful to find some central groups who can provide core resources.
JK: I’ve always enjoyed looking for ways to innovate to improve practice. It’s difficult for all of us to change behaviors—including organizations—and using innovations to adopt innovative practices is an exciting area to work in. I also like developing and working with innovative ideas since the best way to create innovations is to have lots of great minds bringing new ideas and solutions to the table. So the process is interprofessional and fun!
Q: Please tell us about your overall experience and some of the major milestones you’ve achieved so far. What are the next steps?
JK: I see myself as early in the process of bringing the evidence-based intervention to practice and learning how to integrate the program into the MGH IHP and Mass General Brigham systems. I am working on getting funding to study the implementation process and collecting pilot data as I work on adopting the program for delivery. Over the past year, IHP students from the physical therapy and physician assistant programs helped me develop and pilot-test the protocol. I am hoping to keep the project moving forward with additional students and clinicians who can help adapt the program for delivery and assess implementation as we move to practice. I have an NIH R15 grant proposal pending to provide funding support for the work.
Q: What resources have been most helpful to you, and that you think other MGH innovators would benefit from?
JK: The MGH Center for Innovation in Digital HealthCare was a great resource for me. I stumbled upon the website looking through MGH for some help navigating the MGH system and linking me with some other people who could help me connect with technology developers and people thinking about bringing innovations to practice. When I submitted a ticket, I got a response right away. I met with the Innovation in Digital HealthCare team for a group discussion about my project and needs. Soon thereafter, I received a written plan of options for consideration ranging from less intensive and less costly to more intensive and more costly. The group, however, also brainstormed with me and helped me think of ways to embed the intervention materials into the medical record so providers could see the problems their patients identify with work and some possible solutions that may help. I really like this idea because it could help providers understand the work context better and allow a conversation between providers and patients about job-related activities and health needs which doesn’t happen as much as it should for people with chronic disabling conditions.
Q: What advice would you give to other innovators at MGH that you wish you had been given early in your innovation journey?
JK: Try to connect with groups that are supporting bringing innovations into the system. There’s a lot happening at MGB and it’s helpful to find some central groups who can provide core resources.
CIDH would like to thank Dr. Julie J. Keysor for participating in our Innovator Spotlight series and sharing valuable information with our digital health community.
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