Joanna Abraham, PhD

Assistant Professor of Anesthesiology
School of Medicine

Joanna Abraham, PhD, is focused on improving collaborative practices in healthcare using principles and techniques from informatics to promote patient safety, quality and care continuity.


Joanna Abraham, PhD, is an Assistant Professor in the Institute for Informatics (I2) and Department of Anesthesiology at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. Dr. Abraham’s research is focused on understanding the use of Health Information Technologies (Health IT) and evaluating its impact on effectiveness and efficiency of healthcare team workflows including team communication, coordination, and decision making. Her current research focuses on the study and design of Health IT to support: (a) communication error identification and recovery during inpatient handoffs and care transitions; (b) interdisciplinary care team care continuity-driven communication; (c) medication ordering error interception within the computerized provider order entry system (CPOE); and (d) development of shared cognition within disciplinary and interdisciplinary care teams for decision making. Her research work has been published in leading informatics journals such as Journal of Biomedical Informatics (JBI), Journal of American Medical Informatics (JAMIA), International Journal of Biomedical Informatics (IJMI); clinical journals (Critical Care); BMJ Quality and Safety, and ACM SIGCHI conferences (CSCW). Dr. Abraham’s work also has received recognition from the American Medical Informatics Association (AMIA), the primary informatics professional society, which recognized her research through a distinguished paper award in 2012 (on the design and evaluation of a handoff tool for reducing communication errors in a critical care setting) and the Diana Forsythe Award in 2010 (on the detailed investigation of breakdowns in team coordination during an emergency situation). She has been recognized as a national expert in the field of patient handoffs and care transitions by many including the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) who invited her to present her research on patient care transitions. Her research program has been supported by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), the National Science Foundation (NSF), the James S. McDonnell Foundation (JSMF), and several other institutional grants.

Dr. Abraham received a PhD in Information Sciences and Technology from Pennsylvania State University for her thesis on developing a theoretical and translational framework to foster both non-clinical and clinical articulation work during inpatient hospital transfers. Prior to joining Washington University in St. Louis, Dr. Abraham was an Assistant Professor at the University of Illinois (Fall 2013-Summer 2018), an AHRQ post-doctoral fellow at the University of Texas (2010-11; under the mentorship of Dr. Vimla L. Patel & Dr. Jiajie Zhang), and an Associate Research Scientist in the Center for Cognitive Studies and Public Health at the New York Academy of Medicine (2012).

Research Interests

  • Handoffs
  • Care Transitions
  • Care Coordination
  • Decision Making
  • Health IT
  • Medical Errors
  • Mixed Methods
  • Systematic Reviews
  • Evidence Synthesis

Lab Members

  • Alicia Meng, BA, Research Assistant, Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, Department of Anesthesiology
  • Sumi Singh, PhD, Research Specialist, Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, Institute for Informatics