AHRQ Views

Blog posts from AHRQ leaders


Dr. Jeffrey Brady Health care simulation programs have spread to many parts of the health care system to include hospitals, medical and nursing schools, community college programs, and clinics both in the United States and internationally. It's not a new concept, but it's gaining traction in health care as we come to appreciate how simulation has improved safety in other high-risk settings.

Simulating medical encounters creates a safe learning environment for clinicians to train, enhance skills, and test new processes before encountering patients. The Society for Simulation in Healthcare (SSH) is a global professional society dedicated to education, research, and service in the field of health care simulation. AHRQ, meanwhile, has been an early and consistent supporter of simulation research, starting with a 2006 grant program that evaluated the use and effectiveness of various simulation approaches. A series of projects continues this important work.

Simulation is promising because it offers a range of customizable, easily accessible learning opportunities. In a high-risk and deeply technical field such as health care, it is critical to have the opportunity to make "safe mistakes" in clinical care and learn from them without causing harm. Simulation also offers a highly standardized environment where researchers can answer the tough questions that are difficult to study in real-world medical environments.

In an AHRQ perspective in 2013, evidence was presented that health care simulation was effective as an instructional tool compared to no simulation training and that this analysis of the literature supported the use of simulation-based rehearsal as a supplement to working directly with patients. As health care simulation has matured, reasonable questions have emerged about how to realize its full value. We welcome these questions, because simulation ought to be judged according to the standards applied to other medical education and patient safety interventions.

The Agency is funding projects that are showing measurable success, such as one that found that assessing anesthesiologists' skills in simulated medical emergencies can help identify opportunities for improvement and inform continuing medical education. Another example is work being done in an AHRQ Patient Safety Learning Laboratory project that uses simulation technology to support safer care for mothers and their babies before, during, and after delivery. To further understanding, AHRQ and SSH partnered to publish a Healthcare Simulation Dictionary.

Dr. Joseph LopreciatoWith these and other encouraging results, we are eager to see broader uptake of simulation. We believe that it will create and deliver value to medical students and residents, practicing clinicians, and ultimately to patients in the form of safer, more efficient care.

With momentum for simulation growing, SSH is proud to sponsor, and AHRQ is proud to be supportive of Healthcare Simulation Week 2018, which runs from September 17 to 21. The annual observance celebrates the work of professionals who use simulation, while raising awareness about how simulation can lead to safer care. The week's schedule of events includes Facebook Live gatherings, Twitter chats, and webinars, all demonstrating the value of simulation. For instance, a Facebook Live event on September 18 will allow you to take a 360-degree virtual tour of a simulation center, and another Facebook Live event on September 19 will discuss ongoing efforts to develop a Code of Ethics for Healthcare Simulationists.

As the Nation's patient safety agency, AHRQ champions innovative interventions and research in all areas of patient safety, including the growing field of simulation. SSH advocates for the increased use of simulation to better prepare and train clinicians for providing the safest care possible. Working together is a natural fit for us.

But we aren't breaking this ground alone. We welcome your ideas to use simulation to make care safer. Visit the AHRQ Funding Announcements page to see the latest funding opportunities for your innovative ideas.

Dr. Brady is Director of AHRQ's Center for Quality Improvement and Patient Safety. Dr. Lopreiato is President of the Society for Simulation in Healthcare.

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Page last reviewed September 2018
Page originally created September 2018
Internet Citation: Realizing Simulation’s Potential to Improve Health Care Delivery. Content last reviewed September 2018. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, MD. https://www.ahrq.gov/news/blog/ahrqviews/healthcare-simulation.html
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