Using Available Information in Practice-Based Outcomes Research: A Liver Transplant Study

Irwin Epstein, Ph.D., Helen Rehr Professor of Social Work Research in Health Care, Hunter College School of Social Work, City University of New York

Felice Zilberfein, Ph.D., Preceptor, Department of Social Work Service, Mt. Sinai Hospital

Stephen L. Snyder, M.D.

Social workers in social services agencies routinely collect enormous quantities of practice-relevant information for clinical, supervisor, administrative and accountability purposes. Although nor originally intended for research, these information resources can be converted into data-bases for practice-based outcomes research. And, while they present acknowledged challenges, (e.g., problems of validity, reliability and comparability(, they promote practice-research integration and practitioner-researcher collaboration in ways superior to the externally imposed outcomes-research paradigms preferred by most researchers.

This paper offers a paradigm of practice-based outcomes research based on available information, describing its advantages and disadvantages. A liver transplant study currently underway at Mt. Sinai Hospital is offered as an exemplar. The study looks at bio-psysho-social outcomes of over 500 liver transplant recipients. Although it is too early to report the findings of this ambitious study, the secondary benefits for the liver transplant team and the social workers involved are already describable. These include increased interdisciplinary collaboration and team cohesion, greater clarity about treatment goals and social work departmental recognition.

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