Amber Comer

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    Identifying Goals of Care
    (Elsevier, 2020-09) Comer, Amber; Fettig, Lyle; Torke, Alexia M.; Medicine, School of Medicine
    Goals of care conversations are important but complex for clinicians caring for older adults. Although clinicians tend to focus on specific medical interventions, these conversations are more successful if they begin with gaining a shared understanding of the medical conditions and possible outcomes, followed by discussion of values and goals. Although training in the medical setting is incomplete, there are many published and online resources that can help clinicians gain these valuable skills.
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    Indiana Medical Resident’s Knowledge of Surrogate Decision Making Laws
    (Sage, 2022-07) Bartlett, Stephanie; Fettig, Lyle P.; Baenziger, Peter H.; DiOrio, Eliana N.; Herget, Kayla M.; D'Cruz, Lynn; Coughlin, Johanna R.; Lake, Mikaela; Truong, Amy; Comer, Amber R.; Health Sciences, School of Health and Human Sciences
    Introduction During the care of incapacitated patients, physicians, and medical residents discuss treatment options and gain consent to treat through healthcare surrogates. The purpose of this study is to ascertain medical residents’ knowledge of healthcare consent laws, application during clinical practice, and appraise the education residents received regarding surrogate decision making laws. Methods Beginning in February of 2018, 35 of 113 medical residents working with patients within Indiana completed a survey. The survey explored medical residents’ knowledge of health care surrogate consent laws utilized in Indiana hospitals and Veterans Affairs (VA) hospitals via clinical vignettes. Results Only 22.9% of medical residents knew the default state law in Indiana did not have a hierarchy for settling disputes among surrogates. Medical residents correctly identified which family members could participate in medical decisions 86% of the time. Under the Veterans Affairs surrogate law, medical residents correctly identified appropriate family members or friends 50% of the time and incorrectly acknowledged the chief decision makers during a dispute 30% of the time. All medical residents report only having little or some knowledge of surrogate decision making laws with only 43% having remembered receiving surrogate decision making training during their residency. Conclusions These findings demonstrate that medical residents lack understanding of surrogate decision making laws. In order to ensure medical decisions are made by the appropriate surrogates and patient autonomy is upheld, an educational intervention is required to train medical residents about surrogate decision making laws and how they are used in clinical practice.
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    National Institutes of Health Stroke Scale (NIHSS) scoring inconsistencies between neurologists and emergency room nurses
    (Frontiers, 2022) Comer, Amber R.; Templeton, Evan; Glidden, Michelle; Bartlett, Stephanie; D'Cruz, Lynn; Nemati, Donya; Zabel, Samantha; Slaven, James E.
    BACKGROUND: Little is known about the consistency of initial NIHSS scores between neurologists and RNs in clinical practice. METHODS: A cohort study of patients with a code stroke was conducted at an urban academic Primary Stroke Center in the Midwest between January 1, 2018, and December 31, 2019 to determine consistency in National Institutes of Health Stroke Scale Scores (NIHSS) between neurologists and registered nurses (RNs). RESULTS: Among the 438 patients included in this study 65.3% (n = 286) of neurologist-RN NIHSS scoring pairs had congruent scores. One-in-three, (34.7%, n = 152) of neurologist-RN NIHSS scoring pairs had a clinically meaningful scoring difference of two points or greater. Higher NIHSS (p ≤ 0.01) and aphasia (p ≤ 0.01) were each associated with incongruent scoring between neurologist and emergency room RN pairs. CONCLUSIONS: One-in-three initial NIHSS assessed by both a neurologist and RN had a clinically meaningful score difference between providers. More severe stroke, as indicated by a higher NIHSS was associated with scoring inconsistency between neurologist-RN pairs. Subjective scoring measures, especially those involving a patient having aphasia, was associated with greater score incongruency. Score differences may be attributed to differences in NIHSS training requirements between neurologists and RNs.
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    Medical decision making about long-term artificial nutrition after severe stroke: a case report
    (PubMed, 2021-07) Comer, Amber R.; Williams, Linda S.; Bartlett, Stephanie L.; D'Cruz, Lynn E.; Torke, Alexia M.; Health Sciences, School of Health and Human Sciences
    Choosing to use a percutaneous endoscopic gastrostomy (PEG tube) for long term artificial nutrition in the setting of inadequate oral intake after stroke is complex because the decision must be made in a relatively short amount of time and prognosis is often uncertain. This case study utilized interviews with attending and resident neurologists, and surrogate medical decision makers in order to examine how neurologists and surrogate medical decision makers approached the decision to either receive a PEG tube or pursue comfort measures after severe stroke in two patients. Although these two patients presented with similar clinical characteristics and faced similar medical decisions, different decisions regarding PEG tube placement were made. Major challenges included physicians who did not agree on prognosis and surrogates who did not agree on whether to place a PEG tube. These cases demonstrate the importance of the role of the surrogate medical decision maker and the necessity of physicians and surrogate medical decision makers approaching the complex decision of PEG tube placement after stroke together. Additionally, these cases highlight the differing views on what defines a good quality of life and show the vital importance of high-quality goals of care conversations about prognosis and quality of life when deciding whether to place a PEG tube after severe stroke.
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    Documentation of advance care planning forms in patients with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis
    (Wiley, 2022-02) Takacs, Sara M.; Comer, Amber R.; Neurology, School of Medicine
    Introduction/Aims Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a neurodegenerative disorder characterized by progressive weakness. Survival is typically only a few years from symptom onset. The often-predictable disease course creates opportunities to complete advance care planning (ACP) forms. The Physician Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment (POLST) is a broadly used ACP paradigm to communicate end-of-life wishes but has not been well-studied in the ALS population. Methods In this retrospective chart review study, patients diagnosed with ALS seen between 2014 and 2018 at an academic ALS center were identified. Demographic information, clinical characteristics, and ACP data were collected. Results Of 513 patients identified, 30% had an ACP document. POLST forms were competed in 16.6% of patients with 73.8% of forms signed by a neurologist. Only 5.1% of patients saw a palliative care physician. Palliative care consultation was associated with having an POLST on file (P < .001). Patients with completed POLST forms were significantly more likely to have been seen in clinic more frequently (P < .001) and have a lower ALS Functional Rating Scale—Revised score on last visit (P = .005). Discussion Less than one third of patients with ALS completed an ACP document, and only a small percentage completed POLST forms. The data suggest a need for greater documentation of goals of care in the ALS population.
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    Electric Scooters (e-scooters): Assessing the Threat to Public Health and Safety in Setting Policies: Assessing e-scooter policies
    (Society of Practitioners of Health Impact Assessment, 2020-11) Comer, Amber R.; Apathy, Nate; Waite, Carly; Bestmann, Zoe; Bradshaw, Jacob; Burchfield, Emily; Harmon, Brittany; Legg, Rebekah; Meyer, Star; O'Brien, Patrick; Sabec, Micha; Sayeed, Jami; Weaver, Alexis; D'Cruz, Lynn; Bartlett, Stephanie; Marchand, McKenzi; Zepeda, Isabel; Endri, Katelyn; Finnell, John T.; Grannis, Shaun; Silverman, Ross D.; Embi, Peter J.; Health Sciences, School of Health and Human Sciences
    Objective: To determine self-reported incidences of health and safety hazards among persons who ride rentable electric scooters (e-scooters), knowledge of e-scooter laws, and attitudes and perceptions of the health and safety of e-scooter usage. Methods: A cross-sectional survey of n= 561 e-scooter riders and non-riders was conducted during June of 2019. Results: Almost half of respondents (44%) report that e-scooters pose a threat to the health and safety of riders. Riders and non-riders disagree regarding the hazards that e-scooters pose to pedestrians. Among riders, 15% report crashing or falling off an e-scooter. Only 2.5% of e-scooter riders self-report that they always wear a helmet while riding. Conclusions: E-scooter riders report substantial rates of harmful behavior and injuries. Knowledge of e-scooter laws is limited, and e-scooters introduce threats to the health and safety of riders, pedestrians on sidewalks, and automobile drivers. Enhanced public health interventions are needed to educate about potential health risks and laws associated with e-scooter use and to ensure health in all policies. Additionally, greater consideration should be given to public health, safety, and injury prevention when passing relevant state and local e-scooter laws.
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    Massage perceptions and attitudes of undergraduate pre-professional health sciences students: a cross-sectional survey in one U.S. university
    (BMC, 2020-07-08) Munk, Niki; Church, Abby; Nemati, Donya; Zabel, Samantha; Comer, Amber R.; Health Sciences, School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences
    Background Attitudes and beliefs about massage therapy have been explored among health professionals and health profession students, but not for undergraduate preprofessional health sciences students. Methods This cross-sectional survey sought to determine pre-professional health students’ attitudes and perceptions toward massage therapy and determine the extent demographic variables such as age, gender, race, along with lifetime massage experience are associated with neutral/negative perceptions. Results N = 129 undergraduate students completed the Attitudes Toward Massage scale and 7 supplemental items pertaining to sexuality and therapist gender preference along with questions regarding lifetime massage utilization. Prevalence of massage therapy utilization was 35.6% (lifetime) and 18.6% (last 12-months). Overall, positive attitudes towards massage therapy was observed with participants reporting massage experience expressing more positive massage attitudes (lifetime; p = 0.0081, the past 12 months; p = 0.0311). Participants with no massage experience were more likely to report neutral/negative attitudes toward massage (p = 0.04). Men were more likely to prefer their massage therapist to be of the opposite sex (38.9%) compared to women (2.1%) (p = < 0.0001). Men were less confident than women in their concern of becoming sexually aroused during massage (p = 0.0001) and in the belief that massage is sexually arousing (p = 0.048). Both genders expressed comfort with female and/or male massage therapists, but if given a choice, both prefer a female massage therapist. Conclusions Undergraduate pre-professional health sciences students have generally positive attitudes towards massage therapy however more research is needed regarding implicit gender bias and/or preferences. This work should inform future research designs examining the impact of attitudes and beliefs on patient referrals to massage therapy.
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    The Role of Informed Consent for Thrombolysis in Acute Ischemic Stroke
    (2018-12) Comer, Amber R.; Damush, Teresa M.; Torke, Alexia M.; Williams, Linda S.; Health Sciences, School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences
    Although tissue plasminogen activator (tPA) is the only medication approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for acute ischemic stroke, there is no consensus about the need for informed consent for its use. As a result, hospitals throughout the U.S. have varying requirements regarding obtaining informed consent from patients for the use of tPA, ranging from no requirement for informed consent to a requirement for verbal or written informed consent. We conducted a study to (1) determine current beliefs about obtaining patients' informed consent for tPA among a large group of stroke clinicians and (2) identify the ethical, clinical, and organizational factors that influence tPA consent practices. Semi-structured interviews were conducted by trained and experienced investigators and research staff to identify key barriers to implementing acute stroke services. Part of the interview explored current beliefs and practices around informed consent for tPA. This was a multicenter study that included 38 Veterans Health Administration (VHA) hospital locations. Participants were 68 stroke team clinicians, serving primarily on the neurology (35 percent) or emergency medicine (41 percent) service. We conducted thematic analysis based on principles of grounded theory to identify codes about consent for tPA. We used interpretive convergence to ensure consistency among the individual investigators' codes and to ensure that all of the investigators agreed on coding and themes. We found that 38 percent of the stroke clinicians did not believe any form of consent was necessary for tPA, 47 percent thought that some form of consent was necessary, and 15 percent were unsure. Clinicians who believed tPA required informed consent were divided on whether consent should be written (40 percent) or verbal (60 percent). We identified three factors describing clinicians' attitudes about consent: (1) legal and policy factors, (2) ethical factors, and (3) medical factors. The lack of consensus regarding consent for tPA creates the potential for delays in treatment, uneasiness among clinicians, and legal liability. The identified factors provide a potential framework to guide discussions about developing a standard of care for acquiring the informed consent of patients for the administration of tPA.
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    Assessment of Discordance Between Surrogate Care Goals and Medical Treatment Provided to Older Adults With Serious Illness
    (JAMA Network, 2020-05) Comer, Amber R.; Hickman, Susan E.; Slaven, James E.; Monahan, Patrick O.; Sachs, Greg A.; Wocial, Lucia D.; Burke, Emily S.; Torke, Alexia M.; Health Sciences, School of Health and Human Sciences
    Importance: An important aspect of high-quality care is ensuring that treatments are in alignment with patient or surrogate decision-maker goals. Treatment discordant with patient goals has been shown to increase medical costs and prolong end-of-life difficulties. Objectives: To evaluate discordance between surrogate decision-maker goals of care and medical orders and treatments provided to hospitalized, incapacitated older patients. Design, setting, and participants: This prospective cohort study included 363 patient-surrogate dyads. Patients were 65 years or older and faced at least 1 major medical decision in the medical and medical intensive care unit services in 3 tertiary care hospitals in an urban Midwestern area. Data were collected from April 27, 2012, through July 10, 2015, and analyzed from October 5, 2018, to December 5, 2019. Main outcomes and measures: Each surrogate's preferred goal of care was determined via interview during initial hospitalization and 6 to 8 weeks after discharge. Surrogates were asked to select the goal of care for the patient from 3 options: comfort-focused care, life-sustaining treatment, or an intermediate option. To assess discordance, the preferred goal of care as determined by the surrogate was compared with data from medical record review outlining the medical treatment received during the target hospitalization. Results: A total of 363 dyads consisting of patients (223 women [61.4%]; mean [SD] age, 81.8 [8.3] years) and their surrogates (257 women [70.8%]; mean [SD] age, 58.3 [11.2] years) were included in the analysis. One hundred sixty-nine patients (46.6%) received at least 1 medical treatment discordant from their surrogate's identified goals of care. The most common type of discordance involved full-code orders for patients with a goal of comfort (n = 41) or an intermediate option (n = 93). More frequent in-person contact between surrogate and patient (adjusted odds ratio [AOR], 0.43; 95% CI, 0.23-0.82), patient residence in an institution (AOR, 0.44; 95% CI, 0.23-0.82), and surrogate-rated quality of communication (AOR, 0.98; 95% CI, 0.96-0.99) were associated with lower discordance. Surrogate marital status (AOR for single vs married, 1.92; 95% CI, 1.01-3.66), number of family members involved in decisions (AOR for ≥2 vs 0-1, 1.84; 95% CI, 1.05-3.21), and religious affiliation (AOR for none vs any, 4.87; 95% CI, 1.12-21.09) were associated with higher discordance. Conclusions and relevance: This study found that discordance between surrogate goals of care and medical treatments for hospitalized, incapacitated patients was common. Communication quality is a modifiable factor associated with discordance that may be an avenue for future interventions.
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    Development and Validation of the Tele-Pulmonary Rehabilitation Acceptance Scale
    (Daedalus, 2019) Almojaibel, Abdullah A.; Munk, Niki; Goodfellow, Lynda T.; Fisher, Thomas F.; Miller, Kristine K.; Comer, Amber R.; Bakas, Tamilyn; Justiss, Michael D.; Health Sciences, School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences
    BACKGROUND: Using telehealth in pulmonary rehabilitation (telerehabilitation) is a new field of health-care practice. To successfully implement a telerehabilitation program, measures of acceptance of this new type of program need to be assessed among potential users. The purpose of this study was to develop a scale to measure acceptance of using telerehabilitation by health-care practitioners and patients. METHODS: Three objectives were met (a) constructing a modified scale of the technology acceptance model, (b) judging the items for content validity, and (c) judging the scale for face validity. Nine experts agreed to participate and evaluate item relevance to theoretical definitions of domains. To establish face validity, 7 health-care practitioners and 5 patients were interviewed to provide feedback about the scale's clarity and ease of reading. RESULTS: The final items were divided into 2 scales that reflected the health-care practitioner and patient responses. Each scale included 3 subscales: perceived usefulness, perceived ease of use, and behavioral intention. CONCLUSIONS: The 2 scales, each with 3 subscales, exhibited evidence of content validity and face validity. The 17-item telerehabilitation acceptance scale for health-care practitioners and the 13-item telerehabilitation acceptance scale among patients warrant further psychometric testing as valuable measures for pulmonary rehabilitation programs.