News Feature | June 8, 2016

Institute For Patient Safety Takes Aim At Reducing Medical Error

Christine Kern

By Christine Kern, contributing writer

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Collaborative institute to focus on patient safety issues and preventable medical errors

A recent study found medical error is the third leading cause of death in the United States, underscoring the need for closer attention to patient vitals as Health IT Outcomes reported. Patient safety issues and preventable medical errors contribute to some 251,000 deaths and an estimated $50 billion in direct healthcare costs annually in the United States alone.

As part of a new initiative to shed more light on this serious issue, The University of North Texas’ Health Science Center has announced the launch of its Institute for Patient Safety with the goal of reducing medical errors through education, research, and quality improvement programs.

Founding members of the new Institute include Texas Christian University, JPS Health Network, and Cook Children’s Medical Center, and the collaboration represents a community-wide effort that unites experts from medicine, science, engineering, public health, nursing, and patient experience to combat these issues.

“The number of annual deaths due to patient safety is equivalent to two to three 747s crashing every day,” said Michael R. Hicks, M.D., Executive Vice President for Clinical Affairs. “We’ve created a forum for discourse and a framework for discovery that will make our hospitals and health clinics a safer place for everyone.”

According to Senator Jane Nelson, who helped secure $4 million in funding from the Texas Legislature for the initiative, the institute will collaborate with other partners across the state to help reduce preventable harm and improve healthcare quality. She said, “The goal is that the institute will impact the lives of every patient in Texas by creating a universal culture of safety throughout our state.”

The institute will focus on three areas, including ambulatory care settings that currently include few standardized protocols for safety efforts; geriatrics care, where proactive protocols could significantly enhance patient safety; and precision medicine, since adverse drug events affect nearly 5 percent of hospitalized patients every year.

“The focus on ambulatory care, geriatrics, and medication safety reflects the highest priority needs of North Texas — and the core strengths of UNT Health Science Center,” explained Hicks.

The state funds will help to support small-scale testing of innovative new patient safety concepts through four annual seed grants worth up to $25,000 apiece. In addition, the institute also will award larger project grants of up to $100,000 to support studies that can have an immediate impact on health care.