Using computational modeling to improve patient care unit safety and quality outcomes

Judith A. Effken, Barbara B. Brewer, Anita Patil, Gerri Lamb, Joyce A. Verran, Kathleen Carle

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


As part of ongoing research to investigate the impact of patient characteristics, organization characteristics and patient unit characteristics on safety and quality outcomes, we are using a computational modeling program, OrgAhead, to model patient care units' achievement of patient safety (medication errors and falls) and quality outcomes. We tuned OrgAhead using data we collected from 16 units in 5 hospitals. Subsequent validation studies demonstrated acceptable levels of correspondence between actual and virtual patient units. In this paper, we report on our initial efforts to use OrgAhead to develop testable hypotheses about the kinds of innovations that nurse managers might realistically implement on their patient care units to improve quality and safety outcomes. Our focus is on unit-level innovations that are likely to be easier for managers to implement. For all but the highest performing unit (for which we encountered a ceiling effect), we were able to generate practical strategies that improved performance of the virtual units by 6-8 percentage points. Nurse Managers have responded enthusiastically to the additional decision support for quality improvement.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationStudies in Health Technology and Informatics
Number of pages5
StatePublished - 2004
Externally publishedYes


  • Computational modeling
  • decision support
  • nursing informatics
  • quality improvement
  • safety outcomes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biomedical Engineering
  • Health Informatics
  • Health Information Management


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