The coronavirus pandemic has led to growth in the use of telehealth – and a greater awareness of its effectiveness. The scholarly research and advocacy of Dr. Jana Cason on the topic have helped pave the way, and her contributions are garnering national recognition.
Cason, a professor in Spalding University’s Auerbach School of Occupational Therapy (ASOT) who for years has been at the forefront of advancing telehealth as a high-quality healthcare delivery format, has recently received three separate honors for her work:
- The National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy’s 2020 and inaugural Impact Award, recognizing “practitioners who demonstrate exceptional professional commitment through dedication, hard work and outstanding OT skills to improve their clients’ overall life satisfaction.”
- The American Occupational Therapy Association’s 2021 Recognition of Achievement Award, recognizing “occupational therapy practitioners who have made notable contributions to the profession and its consumers in a focused area of occupational therapy practice.” Cason previously won AOTA’s 2019 Innovative Practice Award.
- The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association’s 2020 Editor’s Award, as the editor’s choice of the “most meritorious single article appearing in an ASHA journal (or journal section) in the preceding year.” Cason was honored for co-authoring the article “Ethical Considerations for Client-Center Telepractice” that was published in ASHA’s Perspectives journal in August 2019.
Cason said she is proud to have received the recognition while seeing the growth of telehealth.
“It’s so wonderful that telehealth is coming to the forefront,” Cason said. “Obviously the reason that we all are in the midst of using telehealth is terrible, but a silver lining is that it is advancing telehealth. It should always be a tool in our toolbox as healthcare professionals as a way to deliver services.”
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Cason said she has heard from therapists who had never tried telehealth until recently, and they report seeing clients making strong progress because their therapy session is taking place in the clients’ natural setting of performing the tasks, instead of in a simulated setting of a clinic.
She also mentioned the example of how telehealth has allowed at-school therapy for children to continue while schools have been closed due to COVID-19.
“There have been a lot of people who have been trying telehealth and who are seeing the benefits,” Cason said. “I think it’s here to stay. It was something we always saw value in and had worked to move it forward in the field.”
Cason said she is hopeful that now that people are really seeing the value of telehealth, that some of the logistical barriers that existed pre-pandemic will be lessened in the future, such as the ability for providers to have telehealth services billed and reimbursed, or for a therapist licensed in one state can do telehealth with a client whose home is across the state line.
A fulltime ASOT faculty member since 2006, Cason’s telehealth expertise shows up in many ways in her work at Spalding.
Cason said she will be teaching an elective course on telehealth this academic year within the ASOT curriculum, and she also will soon be working with ASOT entry-level Occupational Therapy Doctorate (OTD) students towards capstone projects related to telehealth.
In addition, she plans to partner with Jocelyn Warren, an OT in Spalding’s Comprehensive Outpatient Rehab Clinic, on delivering telehealth to area children with chronic tic disorders such as Tourette syndrome.
Her other recent projects and service include joining an advisory board of the Child Neurology Foundation as a telehealth expert and serving on the organizing committee of the American Occupational Therapy Foundation’s Grant-planning Workshop, which set a telehealth research agenda for OT.
“There is tremendous opportunity in recognizing the importance that telehealth will continue to play in healthcare, and at Spalding we are mindful of preparing 21st century healthcare practitioners,” Cason said. “That is a component that is really important and that we are building into the curriculum and coursework of our students. We can really speak to being leaders and having in-house expertise and translating that into the classroom to prepare our students for practice in the health field.”
ASOT Chair Dr. Rob McAlister said Spalding’s students are fortunate to learn from a telehealth expert such as Cason.
“Her stature as a national authority on telehealth gives them direct access to the most current research and expertise on how to effectively provide occupational therapy services via an online format,” he said, additionally praising Cason for how accessible she is to students. “She makes time for online meetings, and sets the standard for being responsive to student questions over email.”
McAlister said it is fitting that Cason has received national recognition for her contributions to telehealth.
“She has been very active in our profession for years,” he said. “And she continually strives to help those around her access the resources they need to provide high-quality occupational therapy evaluation and treatment.”