On this episode of the Healthy, Wealthy and Smart Podcast, I welcome Dan White on the show to discuss evidence-based practice. Daniel K. White is an assistant professor at the University of Delaware in the Department of Physical Therapy. Dr. White’s research focuses on physical activity and physical functioning in older adults, people with knee osteoarthritis, and people after Total Joint Replacement.
In this episode, we discuss:
-What is implementation science?
-Evidence Based Practice and how to use Clinical Practice Guidelines
-The latest research findings from the Physical Activity Lab at the University of Delaware
-Limitations of physical therapy branding and how we can step into the physical activity space
-And so much more!
For more information on Dan:
Dr. Daniel K. White is an assistant professor at the University of Delaware in the Department of Physical Therapy. Dr. White received his Bachelor’s degree in Health Sciences, M.S. in Physical Therapy, and Sc.D. in Rehabilitation Sciences, all from Boston University. He completed a post-doctoral fellow at the Boston University School of Public Health and earned a Masters in Science in Epidemiology from the BU School of Public Health 2013.
Dr. White’s research focuses on physical activity and physical functioning in older adults, people with knee osteoarthritis, and people after Total Joint Replacement. Dr. White is an Associate Editor for Arthritis Care and Research, and an active member in the American Physical Therapy Association. His research is funded by the National Institutes of Health, and the Rheumatology Research Foundation. Dr. White can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Daniel K. White is an assistant professor at the University of Delaware in the Department of Physical Therapy. Dan’s research focuses on physical activity and physical functioning in older adults, people with knee osteoarthritis, and people after joint replacement. His research uses large existing datasets to answer questions related to physical functioning and physical activity. As well, he is also conducting clinical trials to lead ways to better promote and increase physical activity in people with knee osteoarthritis and after joint replacement. Dan is an Associate Editor for Arthritis Care and Research, and an active member in the American Physical Therapy Association, the American College of Rheumatology, and OARSI.
Read the full transcript below:
Karen Litzy: 00:01 Hey Dan, welcome to the podcast. I’m happy to have you on.
Dan White: 00:05 Thanks. Great to be here.
Karen Litzy: 00:07 And now today we’re going to be talking amongst other things, implementation science. So before we go any further, can you give a definition of what implementation science is?
Dan White: 00:19 Absolutely. So implementation science, that definition is the scientific study of methods to promote the systematic uptake of research findings and other evidence based practice into routine practice and hence to improve the quality and effectiveness of health services. So essentially it is bridging the gap between science and practice, and it is taking things that we find in laboratories and in clinical studies and literally implementing them into real world, clinics where most physical therapists work.
Karen Litzy: 01:00 Right. So then my other question was why should the average PT care, which I think you just explained that, so we need to care about implementation science because this is how we’re getting what researchers do in the lab to our real world situations and our real patients.
Dan White: 01:16 Yeah. I think practicing as a physical therapist, you know, you can look around and a lot of people do a lot of different things and a lot of things seem to work. Snd I think, if we want a game changer in our practice, that is going to come from a systematically studying people and understanding what are the underlying critical ingredients of our practice that really work and the best thing we have made up today to answer that sort of question of, you know, what is it that really works our clinical practice guidelines that is the, essentially the best body of evidence that has been reviewed by a panel and vetted and made to be digested by the everyday clinician. And implementing these clinical practice guidelines are really the key element that is going to lead to a game changing opportunity for us as a profession.
Karen Litzy: 02:34 And when you talk about clinical practice guidelines, I know sometimes people think that you’re doing sort of it’s cookie cutter and what do I need to follow a cookie cutter recipe for because all of my patients are different. So can you speak to that?
Dan White: 02:52 Yeah, no that is a great point. So on the one hand, there is definitely an art to physical therapy and the clinical practice guidelines and evidence based practice is by no means trying to take that away. It’s evidenced based practice in general is not cookbook medicine. It is combining the three things and one is what the evidence says, but two it also combines what the therapist’s experiences are and then finally it’s what patient’s preferences and what their feelings are on the whole thing. And it’s a combination of all three. It is literally the definition of evidence based practice and these clinical practice guidelines are definitely consistent with that EBP models. So they are not directions or they’re not instructions, they’re guidelines. They’re ways of helping people make informed decisions. And at a minimum, if you consider yourself an expert clinician and knowing what the clinical practice guidelines are, is a big leg up. And definitely key to helping our profession. It doesn’t necessarily mean you ascribe them to every single patient. No, that’s not what evidence based practices, but being aware of them is by definition, in my opinion, being a good clinician.
Karen Litzy: 08:02 So can you give us an example of one of these clinical practice guidelines?
Dan White: 08:21 Sure, absolutely. So one of the common patient populations that people treat is low back pain. And Tony Toledo and his colleagues at the University of Pittsburgh and elsewhere developed a clinical practice guidelines for low back pain, and published this and JOSPT in 2012, their paper described that the purposes of these CPGs, our first to what EBP is for a physical therapy practice. And then also to classify and define common musculoskeletal conditions from this classification criteria specific interventions are devised. So for an example, so I don’t treat low back pain. This is not my area. So just forgive me for giving a guess here.
Dan White: 09:32 One example, is a lumbosacral segmental somatic dysfunction. And this is associated with the ICF diagnosis of acute low back pain with mobility deficits. And, Tony goes on to saying that there’s, certain clinical findings with this, including acute low back pain, a buttock or thigh pain restricted lumbar range of motion and lower back pain and lower extremity related symptoms with provocation. And then from that, there are specific interventions that I’m not going to get into that is unique from a different classification. So a different classification, a low back pain is sub acute, low back pain with mobility deficits, which is basically not acute but subacute patient and the symptoms are produced with ingrained spinal motions and there’s a presence of a thoracic lumbar pelvic girdle mobility deficits.
Dan White: 10:41 And then he goes on and there’s these different classification criteria from which there are very specific interventions you’re supposed to do. So it’s classification and then intervention based on that. And essentially, that is in an ideal world of what a CPG should do. However you’re always gonna have the patient that really doesn’t fit into one or the other. Let’s have somebody who is not quite acute, but they’re not quite subacute. So what do you do? And I think being able to first even make that distinction, you have to be aware of the clinical practice guidelines. So knowing that, okay maybe it’s going to be a combination of these two interventions because of this person doesn’t fit into either one, but see how that approach is already a leg up from not knowing what CPGs are to begin with and what our common classifications is. Does that make sense?
Karen Litzy: 11:38 Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. Thanks so much for using that as a really great example for people. And when you’re talking about different CPGs, I know that the Academy of Orthopedics, which used to be the orthopedic section of the American physical therapy association, they have all these different names now. It’s just made it all so, so much more confusing. But now obviously big proponents of the clinical practice guidelines, but if I wanted to find the average clinician and I want to find some of these guidelines, where do I go? How do I find them?
Dan White: 12:14 Sure. So all the published clinical practice guidelines for orthopedics are on the Academy of Orthopedic Physical Therapy’s main webpage, which is Orthopt.org. There’s a banner that says CPGs and you just click on that and you can get right to all the published CPGs.
Karen Litzy: 12:41 Awesome. And we’ll have a link to that in the show notes at podcasts.Healthywealthysmart.com under this episode so that if people need it one click and we’ll take you right there. So there’s no excuse to not know these CPGs after listening to this podcast then because we’re going to make it really easy for you. And now you just gave us a good example of how CPGs can work in clinical practice. Are there times where maybe they don’t work so well or is there a downside I guess is what I’m trying to say?
Dan White: 13:16 Yeah. I mean, again, going back to your original question of, you know, is this cookie cutter medicine and it’s not and again, since EBP is a combination of patient preference, the provider know how, and what the evidence is. I mean, there’s going to be situations where, you know, a situation’s weighted much more towards a patient’s preference. Like they don’t want you to do manipulation or maybe they want something specific and you’re like, well, that’s really not called for in this case. And so you don’t do the intervention that’s prescribed or that the CPG recommends. And that’s okay. We’re not here to tell people, to command them what to do. They’re coming to us for help. And, patient preference is a large part of evidence based practice. I think that’s the best example I can think of.
Karen Litzy: 14:16 Yeah. And, and I think another, if you’re looking at your clinical experience as one of the legs of that stool, if you will, and the patient doesn’t have a preference yet, you’re sensing as a clinician that there’s some trepidation on the patient’s part. There’s some fear if you were to, like you said, we’ll take a manipulation as an example, then using your provider know how you would say, you know, this is not the right time or place for this. And so I think you’ve got all of that in. So the CPGs is not a cookie cutter oath just because A B C is present you have to do treatment B or treatment a or B. But instead it’s giving you a way to maybe differentially diagnose and a way to, you know, be able to maybe give your patient an explanation as to what’s going on and then use your judgment, use the patient preference and the evidence to then guide your treatment.
Dan White: 15:21 Yeah, exactly. It’s just like, you know, when you just meet somebody, you try to figure out who they are, right. And you try to figure out what kind of personality they are. And there’s some sort of structure or rubric people use. Like let’s say there’s introverts and extroverts, is this person an introvert or extrovert in the CPG the first thing that it does is provide you a framework of saying, well, what kind of types of people are there with this type of pathology? How are they a type of person that has, I don’t know, this type of this type of disorder or this type or another type of disorder. And from that diagnosis of providing a classification, you can, there are clear treatments associated, with that so back to the party analogy, you know, if you’re dealing with an introvert, you know, you, you know that they’re not going to be super bubbly and all over.
Dan White: 16:10 You have to kind of bring things out of them and maybe take it easy and you know, take it on the slow road. Versus if someone’s an extrovert, maybe are going to be doing all the talking. And, you can just be an active listener and be very interested in what they’re saying, because they’re the extrovert and perhaps, you know, that that’s Kinda how it goes. And the CPGs is essentially just it is in the party analogy, a way of just navigating through our clinical practice, to provide best care. And, you know, I think another, medical example that really, stays fresh in my mind is a sort of lifesaving approaches to acute MIs. And, it wasn’t the sort of protocol for or clinical practice guidelines for myocardial infarction, weren’t developed, when necessarily, right after science discovered that, you know, look, if you do x, Y and z can actually save someone’s life.
Dan White: 17:20 It kinda came much, much later. And it wasn’t until, the university hospital in Chicago, implemented these sort of CPGs for lifesaving approaches to MI that the death rate for acute MI’s went way down. And all the medical residents followed, this CPG for treating acute MIs. And, that systematic approach is what made care better. Obviously in physical therapy we’re not talking about life or death, but these CPGs have been vetted and are an approach that is systematically used, will produce a better outcomes. So yes, it’s, you know, EBP, I’m not changing my story here. EBP is obviously patient preference, provider experience as well as the evidence, but when applied systematically, which means you’d be at minimum aware of what the CPGs are, they should produce better outcomes system wide.
Karen Litzy: 18:27 Yeah. And thank you. I love the party analogy and comparing it to that medical example really kind of makes the CPGs a little bit clearer and hopefully people will now not look at them as some sort of cookie cutter program, but instead, as a way to help inform you of your practice, which I think is, yeah, I think it’s great. And now, all right, so let’s move on from CPGs. Let’s talk about, I’m kind of interested in what you’re doing next. So you are the director of the physical activity lab at the University of Delaware. So let us in on some of the things that you guys are working on. If you can, you know, I understand you can’t say everything, but what are some things that you’re working on that you feel like will be part of future implementation science for the average physical therapists treating patients like myself?
Dan White: 19:23 Yeah. Thank you for the opportunity. You know my whole goal is just to get patients better. And, I worked in inpatient, acute, acute Rehab for several years. And I always wondered, you know, after I got people independent with bed mobility, transfers and ambulation, you know, would they actually take those, you know, new found independence, and actually resume their daily activities and be active in the home. And that led me to really thinking a lot about this notion of physical activity or, you know, how much do people do. And so, in the area I study, it’s osteoarthritis and osteoarthritis is a serious disease that is associated with higher rates of mortality.
Dan White: 20:21 And only definitive treatment for osteoarthritis is a total knee replacement. Now, after total knee replacement, people do great with improving their pain, and increasing their function. But there’s many systematic studies that show in terms of physical activity, people aren’t doing more, they’re doing just as little as they did before. And I think that’s a real missed opportunity for physical therapists. And I think there’s a great opportunity to talk about, you know, being more active and helping patients and it really doesn’t take that much. It’s just a, hey, so, you know, how much are you doing every day? With smart phones and the use of fitbits, counting steps per day is actually an incredibly effective, a way to increase or one to see where people are at in terms of physical activity and to increase how much activity people are doing.
Dan White: 21:19 So just like if you’re trying to, you know, lose weight, you usually have a scale and you want to see how much you know, where you’re at and what progress you’ve made. Using a pedometer or using a fitbit monitor to count your steps is an analogy and analogous way of doing the exact same thing. So at the University of Delaware, we are studying what are the best ways, physical therapists and practical ways physical therapists can increase activity in people with knee replacement. And what we’ve done is we recently published a study that basically found that, it’s very feasible to talk about physical activity and do a really quick intervention for people after knee replacement by simply giving them a fitbit monitor. And seeing how many steps per day they’re walking, and then increasing that number of steps today.
Dan White: 22:19 Our target goal of 6,000 steps per day in a study we did several years ago, we found people with knee osteoarthritis who want at least 6,000 steps per day we’re much less likely to develop financial limitation than people who walked less than 6,000. So that’s where we use the 6,000 steps per day. That’s where we have the goal set up. And, since there is a health outcome associated with 6,000 steps that’s our goal. And we see where people are walking and then we start to increase their steps by five to 10% per week. So if you’re walking 2000 steps, we increase it by 100 to 200 steps per day more.
Dan White: 23:25 And then the next week we see where they’re at and we increase it again by another five to 10%. And what we found, doing this intervention and physical therapy is that a one year after discharge from physical therapy. So they’ve had no physical therapy and no intervention. People pretty much maintain the gains they made in physical activity and their gains are pretty substantial. There was a high percentage of people that met the 6,000 steps per day goal, and maintain that one year out in a preliminary study. And we are currently collecting more data to look at a larger sample to have a little more robust results. In talking with the theme of Implementation Science, what our next step is to do is to implement this intervention in real world physical therapy clinics.
Dan White: 24:24 We recognize, you know, at the University of Delaware, we have a fantastic physical therapy clinic. But you know, our clinicians, and the type of people, patients that come here don’t represent a cross section of the entire country. We want to see whether this intervention will work in real world clinics. And we’ve partnered, with a clinic in Lancaster, PA called hearts physical therapy. And we’re looking at developing a implementation of our intervention at that clinic, to see, you know, what’s the uptake with clinicians, what are the barriers, what are the uptake with patients, where the barriers and how can we make this evidence based practice approach actually work.
Karen Litzy: 25:13 Yeah. And you know, as you’re saying that I’m thinking, well, hmm, does it matter like these people know that they’re in a study. So is that their incentive to, you know, continue on with getting these 6,000 plus steps in a day because you know, we all want to show the teacher that we’re good at what we do. Yeah. Right. And then the question is that enough? Like you said, you followed them for a year to really make that a lifestyle change and maybe after a year it is.
Dan White: 25:43 Yup. No, those are good questions. So in terms of sort of in terms of like a Hawthorne effect or where you were, you know, you’re just doing this because you know you’re in this study. First we do have a control group that wears the Monitor. And they did not have the intervention, but we are monitoring their physical activity and know it and the intervention group, in our previously published study, in arthritis care and research, that the intervention group still is walking almost double of what the control group does a one year out. So that’s, you know, that’s notable.
Karen Litzy: 26:36 Oh, one year is a long time and at that point, do you feel like it has shifted to a lifestyle change?
Dan White: 26:47 Yes and that’s the encouraging part. Like one year out that’s a pretty good outcome, for not having any contact with, you know, well not having your original physical therapy for you. And, that’s incredibly encouraging for a longterm outcome and actually thinking that there might be large behavioral change. Another interesting thing with our preliminary studies that we looked at adherence or the fidelity of a treatment in the physical therapy clinic. And what that means is how often did physical therapists tell the patient about, you know, ask them about their step goals and ask them about you know, how they’re doing. And it actually wasn’t that great. It was around 50%. So, it wasn’t that this intervention was, you know, so well taken, in my mind, it was more that the patients really grabbed onto this and saw that, you know, look, this monitor tells me exactly where I’m at. And in qualitative studies we’ve done, or interviews we’ve done after the intervention, the patients, by and large, they say, look, I know where I’m at, that this monitor tells me, and I know when I have a good day and I know I have a bad day and what I need to do to make a difference between the two.
Karen Litzy: 28:05 That’s great. And if you can get that from the monitor or the fitbit or the pedometer or whatever it is that you’re using, then I think that’s a huge win, not just for mobility, which obviously we know we need as we get older and especially after knee replacements, but for a whole host of other health reasons as well.
Dan White: 28:27 Yup. Yup. Exactly that. I was just lecturing yesterday to newly-minted rheumatology fellows at u Penn in Philly. And talking about physical activity first, it was interesting to know that none of them knew what the physical activity guidelines are, which maybe, you know, most people don’t know what they are, but it’s a 150 minutes of moderate intensity activity per week or 75 minutes a week of vigorous intensity. And the reason why these guidelines are so important is that the benefits of health of being physically active are far reaching. They range from not only improved strength and flexibility, but you also have cardiovascular benefits. You have a mental health benefits. There’s less the chance of depression, there’s less chance of weight gain.
Dan White: 29:28 There are a lot of far reaching effects even so that the American College of Sports Medicine Jokes that if you could put the benefits of exercise into a pill, you’d have a blockbuster pill. I mean, it’s definitely a huge benefit to be active. And then the second thing is that, you know, for physical therapists, you know, is that something we should address? I mean, that could be something that, yes, typically, yeah. Typically therapists you think with a patient comes in, you know, they have their complaints and, you know, let’s talk about, you know, reducing your pain and increasing your range and then getting you back to, you know, where you were at. But our recently published study in physical therapy actually surveyed patients and said, you know, what do you feel physical therapists should talk about?
Dan White: 30:24 And they were asked a range of things including weight and Diet and physical activity. And by and large, it was 90 plus percent of patients said, I want my physical therapist to talk about this collectivity. That is what they’re there for. You know, that that is a major reason I am here and I want them to ask me about it and to counsel me on it. So I think that’s something we should, you know, to embrace and understand, you know, what our guidelines are this 150 minutes a week, understand that. And understand, you know, what our steps per day, what are sort of major benchmarks for steps today. You know, we oftentimes say 10,000, but you know, we found earlier that 6,000 for people, you know, osteoarthritis is a meaningful benchmark.
Dan White: 31:15 And then, the last thing I’ll say about the physical activity thing is that, American College of sports medicine and the physical activity guidelines from the Department of Health and Human Services, you know, their major recommendation and before the timeline is that it’s the saying that some is good but more, it’s better that there is a dose response relationship between how much activity people do and their health benefits. So even getting somebody who is completely sedentary to doing at least walking for five to 10 minutes a day, can have a huge change in their health outlook and risk for future poor health outcomes. So, that is a major thing that, you know, PTs need to keep in mind is if I can get this person who I know is sedentary just to do something in adopt that I think is huge win for this patient.
Karen Litzy: 32:12 Yeah. And, I think that the physical therapy profession needs to really step up and be the people to step into this space. I mean, this is what we do. This is our space. You know, we should be grabbing those patients who maybe have knee OA, but don’t need a knee replacement yet. We should be stepping in. That’s our jobs. That’s what we should be doing. We should be working with obese or sedentary people of any age before they have to come and see us for an injury.
Dan White: 32:46 Yup. Yup. Exactly. My doctoral student Meredith Christianson who worked with Gillian Hawker at the University of Toronto to do this qualitative study on primary care physicians. And essentially the question was why don’t primary care physicians recommend exercise and physical activity to patients with knee osteoarthritis. Although despite the fact that every single clinical practice guideline recommends, you know, exercise by and large, the primary care physicians or that we’re saying, well, we don’t know what to recommend. We’re not the experts. And, they would like to refer their patients to PT, but it’s not reimbursed up in Canada. So, you know, I think this further underscores the notion that as physical therapists, we should own the physical activity sphere. We should be the ones that people think of, like, you know, well, I want to be active but I have some problems. What do I do? Go see a physical therapist. You are highly educated individuals who know more about biomechanics, more about kinesiology than anybody else in the clinical sphere. And we are the best place to make exercise and physical activity recommendations to people of all types, more so than any other health provider.
Karen Litzy: 34:13 Yes. I couldn’t agree more. I could not agree more with that. And, in my opinion, and my hope is that physical therapy really starts to move toward that in the very, very near future because boy could we make a big impact in the lives of people around the world if we’re that sort of first line of defense, if you will. And isn’t it amazing that like, I love that you brought up this not covered by insurance, but people will go and pay for a trainer or a massage therapist, not knocking any of those professions at all because I think they’re all very valuable. But people will pay for that and not say, well, can you turn it into my insurance? And then when it comes to physical therapy where, you know we know all this stuff, we have the guidelines, we have the clinical prediction rules. We have the education and it’s just not something that people are willing to put money down for.
Dan White: 35:27 Yeah, I think there’s two things. One I think people will pay if they see value in it. And yes, I think that it’s not that we don’t have value, but I don’t think we’re marketing ourselves well as specifically to the larger community. Going back to the implementation science, Workshop Implementation Science Conference and workshop in Providence, Rhode Island this past march and the president of the APTA came and spoke there and he said that, you know, for us as physical therapists, we’re really lacking in the sales and marketing sphere. And one of the reasons why is because, well, one of the things is we all call ourselves physical therapists. But what that means is very different depending on where you work.
Dan White: 36:33 So for instance, you know, a patient is going to have an eye, a view of what a physical therapist is. In this context. So if they see a physical therapist working in a school, well they’ll think all PTs work in a school, and in acute care after a major MI then they think they only worked at acute care, but you know, marketing that we actually are versed in many areas is a challenge we have. And I don’t know if that means we start to call ourselves a sports specialist or you know, cardiac specialists or what, but, you know, something along the lines of marketing our idea or marketing our expertise better is a key area of need. And then the second thing is, you know, I think it’s okay to ask people to pay for things.
Dan White: 37:24 In knee osteoarthritis as people will pay five to $10,000 for stem cells or PRP injections, and, you know, the evidence behind that is, well, let’s say it politely, much lower than what the evidence is for exercise is. And, it’s just incredible that, you know, if someone’s gonna lay down that sort of cash, you know, I think there is a definite market out there for services that are viewed as valuable and having a physical activity or exercise prescription that’s tailored to, you know, individual needs, you know, is a clear area of opportunity for our profession, for people with chronic diseases. And, you know, I think a space that we should definitely pick up.
Karen Litzy: 38:16 Yeah, there’s no question I could not have said it better myself. And I think I’m going to make nice quote on that because you’re absolutely right. And now before we wrap things up here, it’s the same question I ask everyone, and that is knowing where you are now in your life and in your career, what advice would you give to yourself fresh out of school?
Dan White: 38:54 Yeah, that’s a good question. The advice I’d give myself is, just do your best to make your patients better. I think that’s all it is. And you know, at the University of Delaware, we have people here that work in very different outputs. So we have our clinical faculty that are working, doing a bulk of the teaching for the students. And then we have research faculty or tenure track that teach the PT students, but all have our own research lines. And then we have clinicians that are working in the clinic so very different outputs. But our goal is all unified and that is just to help patients get better. That, you know, and from the clinical side, we are focused on excellence in research or excellence in teaching students the best and latest up to date things and the most effective ways to teaching them.
Dan White: 40:05 So they remember not only to pass the test, but to have successful careers. And then from a research perspective, we’re trying to look for, you know, what are game changing discoveries to help treat people and help them get better. And then the clinicians are implementing that on a daily basis at the University of Delaware. And you know, again, what makes us, I think, what I think of as a prideful point is that we’re all aligned in our goals with trying to get people better. And so that’s something that I guess, you know, I’ve always ascribed to as both a therapist, as a doctoral student and now as a clinical scientist is trying to, you know, my major goal is just to help people get better.
Karen Litzy: 40:54 That’s a wonderful answer. Thank you so much. And where can people get in touch with you if they have questions?
Dan White: 40:59 My email address is email@example.com. Feel free to email me anytime.
Karen Litzy: 41:16 Awesome. Well, thank you so much. Thanks for breaking down the clinical practice guidelines and implementation science, and I love the stuff you’re doing in your lab, so thanks for sharing.
Dan White: 41:25 Great. Thanks so much for having me
Karen Litzy: 41:27 And everyone else, thanks so much for tuning in. Have a great couple of days and stay healthy, wealthy, and smart.
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