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It Matters That It Matters

by YPU Admin on April 3, 2020, Comments. Tags: bioethics, Health, Humanities, Law, patient safety, PhD, Philosophy, and Research

Introduction

Hi, I'm Vicki. I'm a second year PhD student in Bioethics and Medical Jurisprudence here at the University of Manchester. I'm also part of the Greater Manchester Patient Safety Translational Research Centre - yes, it's a very long name! The 'translational' bit means that we are developing and testing new ideas and approaches to patient safety. My research aims to understand how effective our healthcare regulation system is at keeping patients safe when they leave hospital.


In Depth…

Before starting my PhD I studied for my undergraduate degree in Philosophy, and a master's degree in Healthcare Ethics and Law. I had no idea when I graduated with my Philosophy degree that I’d end up where I am now. I worked for a charity as a Fundraising Manager and studied for my master’s degree via distance-learning. My master’s was helpful for me in switching job roles – after graduating I spent a few years working for the General Medical Council, which regulates doctors in the UK. This really sparked my passion for healthcare ethics, regulation, and patient safety!

After that I applied for my PhD, which is funded by the National Institute of Health Research. Unlike a traditional PhD, my PhD is 'by publication'. This means that rather than writing one huge piece of writing, I produce a series of shorter articles to be published in academic journals. But these articles still need to relate to each other under a common theme! At the end, they will form the middle chapter of my PhD, sandwiched between an introduction and a conclusion.

One of the main aims of healthcare regulation is to keep patients safe. This is done by several different regulators in the UK. Some regulate healthcare professionals (like doctors and nurses), whilst others regulate healthcare providers (such as hospitals). The common theme of my research is how do all of these regulators make sure patients are kept safe when they leave hospitals? You might be surprised to learn that leaving hospital can be a really dangerous time for patients, especially the elderly! I’m nearly halfway through my research but I already have several ideas for how regulators could be doing more to keep patients safe.

A friend once said to me that when choosing her career 'it matters that it matters'.  She meant it was important that her work made a real difference to people's lives. It’s an odd quote but it sums up how I feel about my research! I hope that it will be useful in improving safety for patients at a time when they should be going safely home.

Going Further…

  • For a useful introduction to the variety of topics that philosophy examines, see here.
  • Visit this blog by the Nuffield Council on Bioethics, to learn more about the field of bioethics.
  • You can read about my research centre here.
  • Find out more about the exciting work Greater Manchester are doing to improve patient safety.
  • For more information on distance-learning see here

 

Health Economics: the true cost of medical errors

by YPU Admin on August 30, 2019, Comments. Tags: BMH, Health, health economics, NHS, patient safety, and Pharmacy

Introduction

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.

In Depth…

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!

Going Further…

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-/

Why are health records important for research?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GNbe3-d3KdQ