Spalding professor Jana Cason, an expert on telehealth, honored for innovative practice in occupational therapy

Steve Jones

Spalding University faculty member Dr. Jana Cason, who is regarded as a leader and expert in the implementation of telehealth services in occupational therapy, has received a national honor recognizing her contributions to innovation in the field of OT.

Cason, a professor in Spalding’s Auerbach School of Occupational Therapy since 2005, has been named the recipient of the 2019 Emerging and Innovative Practice Award by the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA). She will be honored at the AOTA’s annual conference in New Orleans in April.

The award recognizes occupational therapy practitioners who have developed innovative or non-traditional OT practices for underserved populations or utilized their expertise in visionary ways that help clients while keeping the profession relevant and responsive to changes occurring in health care.

Over the last decade, particularly, Cason has been heavily involved in practicing, researching, teaching and advocating telehealth, which involves delivering therapy or health care services remotely through technology. Cason’s work has included advocating for the implementation of telehealth OT in underserved areas.

She has written or co-written many documents and articles related to telehealth standards, guidelines and principles in occupational therapy, and she has held leadership roles with AOTA and the American Telemedicine Association (ATA).

RELATED: Faculty Focus Q&A with Dr. Cason about her experience teaching at Spalding

Cason got interested in telehealth several years ago through her OT practice that focused on early intervention for children with developmental delays. She noticed a major need for therapists for children in rural areas who didn’t have access to services.

Cason said she took over the caseload of one therapist who was driving two hours each way to see her pediatric clients.

“And without her doing that, they just wouldn’t have had a service,” Cason said.

At the same time, Cason said, she was routinely speaking over the phone with other therapists who sought her recommendation about services for children they were seeing.

“I thought, ‘How much more effective would this be if I could actually see them through video conferencing?'” Cason recalled. “From there, it just became an effort to fill a need for underserved populations.”

RELATED: More info on Spalding’s Doctor of Occupational Therapy (OTD) program

Cason developed a pilot telehealth program through Spalding’s Kosair Charities Enabling Technologies of Kentuckiana (enTECH) assistive technology resource center, which is a division of the Auerbach School of Occupational Therapy.

She published research about the implementation of that pilot enTECH program, then in subsequent years, continued to spread the word and support the integration of telehealth in a range of OT settings, as well as other health care disciplines.

“It’s really coming along in all the fields,” Cason said.

In OT, Cason said telehealth can help a client more easily connect with a therapist who has specialized knowledge – such as feeding skills or some other specific discipline. Also, it avoids transportation conflicts caused by inclement weather.

“It’s helping people to have access who might otherwise not have access,” she said.

From an educational perspective, Cason is regarded as a prominent scholar on telehealth.

Cason, who is senior associate editor of the International Journal of Telerehabilitation, has authored seven book chapters, including ones used in OT textbooks, and her scholarly work related to telehealth has been cited more than 400 times in various articles and books.

RELATED: enTECH, Kosair Charities distribute assistive-technology gifts to kids

An article titled “An Introduction to Telehealth for Occupational Therapy” that she wrote for OT Practice magazine, which is published by the AOTA, that has been assigned reading for students in several OT programs.

She also represented occupational therapists in contributing to the writing of an interprofessional standards and guidelines document called “A Blueprint for Telerehabilitation Guidelines,” as well as a 2017 updated document called the “Principles for Delivering Telerehabilitation Services.”

She also has led efforts to overcome barriers to the implementation of telehealth that are caused by regulations related to license portability.

Through it all, Cason said, she’s been proud to work for and represent Spalding.

“I absolutely love Spalding and the mission, and I think we live our mission,” she said. “It’s really student-centered, and the emphasis for faculty is really on teaching excellence. All of our faculty in the OT program are leaders in the field in different areas of practice, and there is a commitment to continually improve our craft of teaching.”