"The Power of OT is Anchored in the Everyday Lives of People"

Posted by Barbara Winthrop, OTR, MA, CVE, CHT, FAOTA on 04/18/2016

Having just returned from the 96th AOTA Annual Conference in Chicago, “Evidence & Outcomes: Empowering the Profession,” where I had the privilege to represent ASHT, I can wholeheartedly tell you that OT is thriving and strong! Attending the meeting was a record number 10,819 OTs and OT students, marking the largest gathering of OT practitioners in the world! The theme of the meeting was woven throughout the conference. There were educational sessions on leadership, professional values, health promotion and wellness and advocacy. As well, the use of social media was highlighted throughout the program to promote practice of occupational therapy in line with the triple aim of healthcare reform – improve healthcare quality, enhance efficiency and decrease costs. Occupational therapy continues to facilitate participation in everyday life, is actively advancing policy and creating and supporting income stream openings for emerging areas of practice, such as telehealth. 

It was particularly meaningful to see so many ASHT members as presenters and/or mentors of educational sessions or scientific posters, such as past board member Jeannine Beasley, EdD, OTR, CHT, FAOTA; past president Donna Breger Stanton, OTD, OTR/L, CHT, FAOTA; and Corey McGee, PhD, MS, OTR/L, CHT, just to name a few.

ASHT member, Sally E. Poole, OTD, OT/L, CHT received the prestigious Recognition of Achievement Award.

The Opening Ceremonies kicked off celebrating a few of the exemplary OT practitioners who are using evidence conveying how occupational therapy improves outcomes – demonstrating why the profession will always be a vital, sought-after service.

There were a number of courses presented about hand therapy, including “Creating a Career Path in Hand Therapy,” which offered guidance on how therapists with an interest in hand therapy can gain experience for successful employment. During this session, the opportunity presented itself to speak on behalf of the opportunities that exist through ASHT membership and it was exciting to see how many therapists expressed interest in ASHT. Further, ASHT’s booth in the AOTA Exhibit Hall, headed up by ASHT Executive Director Gene Terry, CAE, was non-stop action of OTs and OT students expressing interest in ASHT programs and membership.

In February 2016, Elizabeth Skidmore, an OT scientist and member of the AOTF Academy of Research, and Associate Professor and Chair of the University of Pittsburgh’s Department of OT, was selected as one of 105 recipients of the United States Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists & Engineers. This is the highest honor that can be bestowed by the U.S. Government on Science & Engineering professionals in the early stages of their independent research careers. Dr. Skidmore is the first OT to receive this prestigious award. The awardees are selected based on their pursuit of innovative research and are at the frontiers of science and technology, with their commitment to community service demonstrated through scientific leadership, health and education for community outreach. Dr. Skidmore’s research focuses on interventions designed to promote independence and community re-engagement after stroke and other forms of brain injury. Her NIH-funded research has identified innovative rehabilitation treatments that can be started within just a few days after brain injury and are associated with significant reductions in long-term disability.

Three years ago, the American Occupational Therapy Foundation launched the Intervention Research Grant Program and AOTA was a collaborator. This grant program lays the groundwork for much larger intervention studies. The AOTF Intervention Research Grant Program receives major funding from AOTA, NBCOT, the St. Catherine Challenge and individual and corporate donors. These one-year awards, up to $50,000, enable pilot and feasibility studies to be conducted, providing the basis for larger studies to evaluate the effectiveness of occupational therapy interventions on occupation, participation and health. Many of AOTF’s Intervention Grant recipients represent early- to mid-career scientists with extensive research training, and thus signifies that occupational therapy is increasing its research capacity.

Two representatives from AOTA’S Practice Division – Lesley Addison Khan-Farooqi, OTD, OTR/L, and Marge Phillips Krengel, OTR/L, CHT – also attended the AOTA Annual Meeting representing ASHT. They divided and conquered as they made sure they kept abreast of the most up-to-date legislative, regulatory and reimbursement information.

AOTA has successfully gained the appointment of a number of OTs to influential CMS Expert Panels to provide impact and recommendations on behalf of the profession. Further, with AOTA’s role with the National Quality Cohort and other quality-directed organizations, AOTA is hard at work ensuring the distinct value of OT is included in new value-based payment models as the healthcare delivery system evolves.

AOTA has been working for three years on a huge project to revise and update the CPT codes defined by the AMA to promote better descriptions of which we provide services. AOTA has received approval for new CPT evaluation codes that will go into effect in January 2017.

In New York State, a milestone was achieved when in November 2015, licensure for OTAs was established and it became the 50th state to do so!

Since autumn 2015, AOTA has targeted the promotion of OT at six physician organizations and payers, and is planning to participate in two more by the end of June. As a means to promote OT, services critical to referral of payment sources, AOTA’s media relations outreach has continued with great success. OT has appeared more than 200 times in publications with circulation of 5 million or more and great national coverage over the past year including on the “Today Show,” “Ellen,” coverage of Backpack Day by CNN’s Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, an NPR story on OT and many more.

For more than a year, AOTA board has been involved with a new visioning process to build on the work of the Centennial Vision, to guide us beyond 2017. Through surveys, focus groups and interviews, and armed with the research that resulted from these efforts, AOTA held a facilitated visioning summit in October 2015 for 78 participants from within and outside the OT community, who represented a broad range of age, experience, diversity, roles and practice settings. They used this research to define the high-priority issues facing occupational therapy’s future and to discuss the essential elements of a new vision. There were four guideposts that made up Vision 2025:

Accessibility: OTs provide culturally responsive and customized services to the clients they serve.
Collaborative: OTs excel at working with others to advance practice solutions.
Effective: OT is evidenced-based, client-centered and cost-effective.
Leaders: OT influences the changing environments and complex systems in today’s evolving healthcare environment.

Vision 2025 builds on the centennial vision and demonstrates an evolution of sorts. It is more pragmatic, and helps all us see where we need to be as a profession.  This work became the new vision statement of the AOTA board, which it adopted during its February 2016 board meeting:

“Occupational therapy maximizes health, well-being and quality of life for all people, populations and communities through effective solutions that facilitate participation in everyday living.”

Dr. Virginia Stoffel delivered her farewell address as AOTA President, coining the phrase, "every member a leader, and a member for life" and reflecting on the occupational therapy family’s shared values, ethics and doing together that binds OTs together across generations, practice settings and countries!   Yes, occupational therapy is alive, well and thriving!

Happy Occupational Therapy Month to all!

Practce Division members Lesley Addison Khan-Farooqi, OTD, OTR/L, and Marge Phillips Krengel, OTR/L, CHT, with ASHT 2016 President Barbara Winthrop, OTR, MA, CVE, CHT, FAOTA

AOTA President-Elect Amy Lamb, OTD, OTR/L, FAOTA, AOTA; ASHT 2016 President Barbara Winthrop, OTR, MA, CVE, CHT, FAOTA; and AOTA President Virginia Stoffel, PhD, OT, BCMH, FAOTA

ASHT Industry Relations Manager Porter Rice; 2016 Annual Meeting Chair Rebecca Neiduski, PhD, OTR/L, CHT; ASHT 2016 President Barbara Winthrop, OTR, MA, CVE, CHT, FAOTA; ASHT Executive Director Gene Terry, CAE; ASHT President-Elect and AHTF Board Member Gary Solomon, MBA, MS, OTR/L, CHT, ASHT; HTCC Board Member Stacey Doyon, OTR/L, CHT, HTCC; and HTCC Executive Director Marty Walsh, OTR/L, CHT