First PhD Program to Prevent Medical Errors

apothecary-437743_1280-300x200Medical errors are the third leading cause of death in the United States, which is a horrible fact. Fortunately, in the future, we may have scientists and researchers who are much better equipped to deal with this severe health care problem.

The country’s first PhD in healthcare quality and patient safety is currently being offered at North Western Medicine. The aim of the program is to prevent the more than 440,000 fatalities that involve medical errors every year. The first batch of students with a PhD in healthcare quality and patient safety graduated in 2016. A second batch is already participating in the program.

According to experts who were involved in the program, medical errors are a major problem plaguing the healthcare industry, and over the years, too few concrete steps have been taken to reduce the errors and their impact. This is a problem that requires expert minds. In it’s current for, the medical community is ill-equipped to deal with the magnitude of the problem.

There is a desperate need for more qualified researchers and scientists who can bring specialized expertise to the table to better tackle the various deficiencies in the system that cause these errors. The doctors, nurses and technicians currently manning the system are not trained to deal with these problems because they have never had the opportunity to develop the skills and the perspective needed to contain these errors.

On the other hand, students in the North Western Medicine PhD program immerse themselves in the study of physical and cognitive ergonomics that help them understand the reason errors occur in high-pressure environments, like medical situations. Students learn about one of the times in a hospital setting that poses the greatest risk for a patient, which happens to be when a patient is moved from intensive care to a regular care ward. The patient transfers from round-the-clock nursing into a regular hospital room where a single nurse may be in charge of several patients. These patients are seen only once every few hours. Not surprisingly, the risk of a patient’s condition worsening spikes.

These are the kind of insights that the PhD program provides in the curriculum of students who are interested in minimizing the impact of medical errors in the US healthcare system. The curriculum also includes strategies to enhance communication and teamwork in the workplace. An enhanced network of communication allows doctors and nurses to stay informed about changes in a patient’s condition, changes in treatment options, changes in medications, and other variables that could affect patient safety.

Hopefully, the healthcare system in the future will benefit from the inclusion of such talented and skilled experts in medical error prevention.