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UVM lab explores health economics

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The cost of health care continues to increase every year, but there is work under way at the University of Vermont and Fletcher Allen Healthcare to study so-called health care economics.

"Health economics is about improving outcomes and reducing costs, saving money, saving lives," said Christopher Jones, a professor of surgery and professor of economics at the University of Vermont. He is also the Director of the Global Health Economics Unit in UVM's College of Medicine.

The unit is part of The center for Clinical and Translational Sciences which focuses on bringing better techniques to patient's bedsides."So this is about establishing new ways to treat diseases, field testing those in a lab setting, bringing those swiftly to the patient who needs them and then understanding those patients as populations so we can then go back and work on the next set of research questions," Jones said.

And the work takes Jones around the world, because other countries are interested in this topic as well. One example of the center's work happens in UVM's simulation laboratory, where procedures are practiced and streamlined over and over again than transitioned into a real hospital setting.

The lab opened in 2011.  Medical students, nursing students and medical professionals work together to teach and learn and improve the care that will eventually be given to real patients. This work resulted in a new way to administer what is called a central line -- a catheter that is inserted in the neck to deliver fluids and medicine.  The new technique cuts down on infections and complications.

Dr. Ted James is the Medical Director of the Clinical Simulation Laboratory. "When we implemented that into our hospital system we actually found that decreased the rate of those complications. We tracked it for 14 months and found we reduced it to zero -- zero central line infections. That is an incredible value for the patient, much higher quality of care and also reduces the cost from treating those complications -- the estimate was 5 to 7 million dollars for that one year," Dr. James said.

And while that is one example of health economics, Jones says much more work needs to be done. "There are no silver bullets. Everything comes at a cost and if we are just able to get some efficiency in and placing our money on the most prudent bets, that is where we get real value for our money," he said.

And in the process, improve patient outcomes.

For more information:  http://www.uvm.edu/medicine


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