Health Care Simulation Goes To Capitol Hill

June 14, 2011

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Tonight's episode of my TV show, The Little Couple, will feature a truly exciting first for me: traveling to Washington, D.C. to advocate on Capitol Hill. AIMS, an organization of individuals and organizations committed to promoting health care simulation as a way to improve patient safety, invited me to be the keynote speaker at their annual meeting in March 2011.

As Medical Director of the Simulation Center at Texas Children's, health care simulation is a cause near and dear to my heart.

What Is Health Care Simulation?

Simulation is a very high-tech method of education and training in high-risk fields such as aviation, space and now health care. Simulation recreates a clinical envirsimulation-center-trainingonment and gives health care professionals exposure to high-risk scenarios without putting actual patients at risk. During simulation, doctors and nurses practice on high-fidelity mannequins that respond physiologically to treatment, while actors play the role of patients and families to help them develop communication skills in crisis. Following simulation exercises, debriefing sessions provide health care professionals with a chance to review their performance on video, while evaluating the effectiveness of their actions during simulation.

How Simulation Can Save Lives

In November 1999, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) released a report estimating that as many as 98,000 patients die as the result of medical errors in hospital each year — equivalent to a Boeing 737 crashing every day. Seventy percent of these deaths are not because health care providers don't have the knowledge, skill or expertise to deliver safe health care, but rather are the result of deficiencies in teamwork and communication. Although doctors and nurses have years of medical education, until the development of simulation they had little opportunity to practice how to work together as a team and communicate effectively during high-risk situations such as a CODE. Similarly, research has found that the major cause of airlines crashes are not due to deficiencies of expertise, mechanical problems or weather issues, but like healthcare, are problems with teamwork and communication. Aviation has become a very reliable and safe mode of transportation due to the incorporation of simulation training into the daily work life of all airlines employees — from the pilots to the flight crew. Hospitals can learn from aviation's experience!!

Since the IOM report in 1999, health care in the U.S. has been trying to decrease medical errors and save lives. As advances in technology have developed more realistic human patient mannequins, the field of health care simulation is rapidly growing.

You will see in tonight's episode of The Little Couple, I had the opportunity to go to Capitol Hill to advocate for a bill that will support funding for hospitals all around the country. With these funds, hospitals can develop simulation centers to provide an opportunity for doctors and nurses to practice their teamwork and communication skills during high-risk clinical situations.

Please Join Me:

I hope our legislatures see the value of simulation and support this new bill. I hope you will join me in spreading the word about this important cause. You can help us by writing to your Member of Congress explaining to them why you think funding for health care simulation is important.

For more information about our program at Texas Children's, visit our Simulation Center web page.

And to learn more about the bill and to advocate for simulation in healthcare, visit the AIMS website.

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