Jessica Gormley, PhD, a speech-language pathologist at UNMC's Munroe-Meyer Institute, will be part of a national effort, led by Penn State University, to create an app that will teach providers how to more effectively communicate with patients who cannot speak.
Joined by colleagues at Omaha's Madonna Rehabilitation Hospital, Dr. Gormley will be acting as a subcontractor on the five-year project, funded by a $4.6 million grant from the National Institute on Disability, Independent Living and Rehabilitation Research (NIDILRR).
Dr. Gormley's role will evolve over the course of the project. Initially, she will be working with the app development company, Arkansas-based Invotek, to develop a tool to effectively teach acute care providers how to interact with adults who may have had a stroke or a trauma and are not able to use their voice to communicate.
"We've been consulting with the app developers to look at the different features that we want," Dr. Gormley said. "We want to get inpatient providers' feedback before rolling anything out - what would be useful and user friendly, addressing usability questions.
"So in the first year, we're going to be working together with the developers to make sure we have a great prototype to roll out and hit the ground running."
Once the app is developed, Dr. Gormley will help design training modules for the app and train Nebraska Medicine providers on its use.
"We will roll it out to interested staff if they have a person on their caseload who can't speak to see if the app can help train and support providers to interact more effectively.
"It's hard when you can't speak to really participate in your care as a patient, so this is a way to make sure that people are getting the most opportunity to control those interactions and have a say in what's happening to them," she said.
As the project progresses, Dr. Gormley will help with data collection to track the effectiveness of the app's training tools.
"We're going to be in the acute care provider settings, but then our patients often move on," Dr. Gormley said. "Our partners at Madonna will be taking that same app and doing trainings, as well. So there will be opportunities for health care providers to learn these skills from when a person enters the health care world and as they travel from acute care to rehabilitation."
Dr. Gormley hopes to start the project soon.
"There hasn't been a huge amount of research in this area, specifically with this population, so it's great to be a part of this innovative project," she said. "For a lot of acute-care patients we see, they are experiencing loss of speech for the first time, and it's scary. So it's exciting to be a part of creating a solution to support both these patients and the providers who serve them."
We are so fortunate to have Dr. Jessica Gormley in our dept! She is a true collaborator and innovator!