What you need to know about simulation in healthcare

By Jessica Beard on May 17th, 2012

Mannequins, task-trainers, standardized patients, virtual patients…these are all types of simulations. But what do they mean to the healthcare industry? Simulation is nothing new to medical students training to become the doctors and nurses of the future. However, there’s significant opportunity for long-practicing healthcare professionals in the use of simulation. For starters, as accountable care organizations (ACO) and patient-centered medical homes (PCMH) become increasingly more popular, organizations will receive compensation based on improved clinical outcomes and patient satisfaction. This leaves hospitals and health systems searching for ways to improve the decision-making of their staff—as opposed to their overall medical knowledge. Simulation has been implemented as a resource for continued training—as stated in a recent Healthcare Informatics piece, Patient Simulation: An ACO’s Best Friend? Honing decision-making can only lead to improved patient outcomes, helping healthcare organizations succeed in this constantly changing environment. While this may seem a reason on its own to consider simulation as part of a healthcare organization’s strategy, there are many other benefits to this type of training. Here are three things you need to know about simulation in healthcare—beyond medical schools.

  1. Increased financial efficiency. Continuously refining and regularly updating skills ultimately impacts care coordination, therefore costs. If the right decisions are made the first time around, patients are less likely to return with complications. Simulation enables physicians, nurses and administrative staff to take a step back from their day-to-day activities and assess what can be done differently. While more time consuming at first, organizations will ultimately save on costs in the long run.
  2. Well-rounded training. By implementing various types of simulation, students and practicing physicians, nurses and other medical staff can carry out different training scenarios in many different ways. For example, New York University uses virtual human bodies to learn about anatomy in conjunction with cadaver teaching methods. Everyone learns and hones skills differently and simulation provides a multitude of ways for healthcare professionals at every level to study and practice patient care.
  3. Education for specific events. Simulation can be used to train medical staff for a specific event or situation, such as a plane crash or epidemic like the swine flu outbreak. For instance, hospitals anticipating a particularly large number of patients presenting with swine flu can practice how to treat such patients so that staff adheres to CDC and Joint Commission standards. By practicing these types of situations, healthcare organizations will be better prepared, therefore, providing optimum patient care.

In a time when many healthcare organizations are struggling to keep up with changing regulations and ongoing demands of the industry, it is important to take a step back and see other opportunities that positively impact patient outcomes and financial efficiency in a non-traditional way.