$8.4 million research grant to improve patient safety

14 November 2008

A major cross institutional research collaboration aimed at reducing the number of patients harmed in Australia has received $8.4 million in funding in the latest round of National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) program grants.

With current research showing that patient harm occurs in 10 per cent of hospital admissions, and that less than half of all patients receive recommended care, this research aims to investigate how and why this occurs. The major focus will be on the roles of teamwork, safe medication use and the application of enhanced Information Technology (IT) to support improved decision-making.

'Despite widespread recognition of the need for reliable measures of the state of healthcare in Australia, we still have a poor understanding of what exactly is going wrong and in turn how we can fix it,' said the University of Sydney's Professor Johanna Westbrook, one of the project's Chief Investigators.

'IT enhancements in the health care system have the potential to dramatically improve the effectiveness and safety of care, however we need to better understand the current determinants of safe practice to ensure we see a return on investments in these systems.'

The research program is the result of alarming statistics proving that patient safety is a growing concern both within Australia and internationally. In Australia 10 per centof admissions to acute care hospitals are associated with an adverse event, however at least as much harm also occurs post-discharge with a million general practice incidents a year demonstrating problems between, as well as within, the layers of health care in Australia.

Professor Johanna Westbrook, Director of the Faculty's Health Informatics Research and Evaluation Unit
Professor Johanna Westbrook, Director of the Faculty's Health Informatics Research and Evaluation Unit

Led by five Chief Investigators from across the University of Sydney, the University of New South Wales and the University of South Australia, the research will run over five years commencing in 2009. The program brings together leading experts in the field of patient safety including team leaders Professor Johanna Westbrook (USYD), Professors Jeffrey Braithwaite, Enrico Coiera and Ric Day (UNSW) and Professor Bill Runciman (UniSA).

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