Health Economics: the true cost of medical errors
Hi there, my name is Leonie Brinkmann. I am a German pharmacist and started my PhD at the University of Manchester about two years ago. I work in the field of health economics. Health economics is a branch of economics that tries to evaluate health care services or new medications from an economic perspective without neglecting the value of health. This combines a medical background knowledge, data analysis and statistics. I myself, for example, focus on patient safety. Using big data sets of electronic health records I try to identify specific patients with medication errors to see how many of the medication errors lead to harm for the patient.
I am a pharmacist by background and did my undergraduate at the University of Heidelberg. Pharmacy is a great subject that combines biology, chemistry, physiology and pharmacology. I was always interested in medicines and diseases, but I cannot see blood. So studying medicine was off the table, but pharmacy happened to be the prefect trade off!
I enjoyed my undergraduate a lot, but it included long hours in the laboratory. Lab work was never something I enjoyed. I found it rather boring… But luckily as pharmacist you have loads of other opportunities in community pharmacies, industry, hospital or research.
I was very lucky to get a job as clinical pharmacist in a hospital. My main objective was to increase patient safety on the wards. I had a great time going from ward to ward, identifying patients with medication errors, and telling the doctors or nurses off that made the error. It always felt a bit like being the safety police of the hospital.
But at some point I felt like I wanted to study again, I wanted to learn something new and be challenged a bit more. That’s when I decided to do a PhD. I found a great project that took the work I was doing in the hospital on a small scale to another level. Before I was looking through the patient’s health records by hand, now I am evaluating a computer programme that automatically screens all electronic health records of a patient and identifies medication errors. The pharmacists does not need to screen each patient, but can focus on how to communicate medication errors to the responsible doctor.
The burden of medication errors is estimated to be about £89.1 million per year for the NHS. This highlights how important it is for the NHS to invest in programmes that aim to reduce medication errors. But unfortunately, the NHS does not have endless money to fund great ideas like this. That’s where health economics becomes interesting, because we can show the value of money of the new computer programme. To do so I am using electronic health records from GP-practices and hospitals to investigate the relationship between medication errors, patient harm and costs. Quantifying the burden of medication errors enables us to estimate the true value for money of the computer programme. Results on the value for money of such programmes aims to aid decision making by policy makers on whether to fund such programmes or not.
So if you like numbers, you are not scared of statistics and you want to make the NHS a bit safer, this is the perfect opportunity for you!
Learn more about Pharmacy https://www.bmh.manchester.ac.uk/study/pharmacy/
Little introduction video to understand what health economics is about (only 3 minutes) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bUay9DV__G0
Learn more about what we do as health economists in our newsletter http://research.bmh.manchester.ac.uk/healtheconomics/MCHENewsletter/
What are electronic health records that I use in my PhD project https://www.ehealthireland.ie/Strategic-Programmes/Electronic-Health-Record-EHR-/https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GNbe3-d3KdQ