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.

Background

Dr. Abraham is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Anesthesiology and Institute for Informatics, Washington University in St. Louis. She received her Ph.D. from Pennsylvania State University in Information Sciences and Technology with a focus on health informatics, human factors, and human-computer interaction, and has over 14 years of expertise in patient safety, cognitive science, and applied clinical informatics.

Dr. Abraham’s research is driven by the overarching goal of improving patient safety through the design of health information technology, process re-engineering, and clinician training. She has led numerous patient safety and healthcare quality improvement projects on transitions in care and clinical communication, care coordination, medication ordering, and decision-making over the last decade. Her empirical research on communication and medication safety has translated into evidence-based tools at multiple hospitals. Key examples include the Discharge Transition Record (DTR) for supporting effective hospital discharges of pediatric patients; an EHR-integrated Rounding Report Tool (RRT) for supporting communication and coordination of teams; and a Void Alert Tool (VAT) for improving medication ordering safety. She and her research team have contributed to over 45 peer-reviewed publications in leading informatics and clinical journals.

Dr. Abraham is recognized as a national expert in the field of patient handoffs and care transitions, serving on the Multi-Center Handoff Collaborative, a national-level organization focused on perioperative handoff efforts funded by Anesthesia Patient Safety Foundation. She also serves on the Leapfrog National Expert Panel for its Computerized Prescriber Order Entry (CPOE) standard, including the CPOE Evaluation Tool. Previously, she has served on an expert handoff panel for the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) and the Agency for Healthcare Quality and Patient Safety. Her work has also 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, the Diana Forsythe Award in 2010, and the New Investigator Award in 2019.

Given the interdisciplinary nature of her research expertise, she has served on scientific review panels for several federal agencies, including the National Institutes of Health (NIH), Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), and National Science Foundation (NSF). She currently serves on the Editorial Boards for the JAMIA (Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association), JAMIA Open, and the External Advisory Board for The Joint Commission Journal on Quality and Patient Safety.

Research Areas

  • Handoffs/Care Transitions (Funding: AHRQ James S. McDonnell Foundation; NSF CISE; Loyola University Pilot Grant; BJC Healthcare and WUSM Big Ideas Innovation Competition)
  • Voiding of Medication Ordering Errors
  • Decision making in Perioperative Telemedicine (Funding: WUSM DOCTR; NIH/NINR)
  • Rounds Communication and Care Coordination (Funding: George H. Miller Foundation; UIC College of Engineering Seed Grant)
  • Evidence Synthesis (Funding: Emergency Strategic Clinical Network)
  • Perioperative Mental Health (Funding: NIMH)
Research Areas Details

Research Interests

  • Handoffs and Care Transitions
  • Medication Ordering Errors
  • Care Team Coordination
  • Perioperative Telemedicine
  • Perioperative Mental Health
  • Clinician Decision Making
  • Evidence Synthesis

Lab Members

  • Madhu Kandasamy, BS, Clinical Research Study Assistant, Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, Department of Anesthesiology
  • Bing Xue, PhD Student in Electrical Engineering, Washington University in St. Louis, McKelvey School of Engineering
  • Yennuten Paarima, PhD Student in Nursing Science, Goldfarb School of Nursing & Washington University in St. Louis
  • Mallory Light, MA, MSN, RN, CNL, CCRN, Doctoral Student in Nursing Practice, Goldfarb School of Nursing; Visiting Student, Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, Department of Anesthesiology
  • Brian Bartek, Student in Biomedical Informatics Certificate Program, Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, Institute for Informatics

Selected Publications