Iranian American Entrepreneur Aims For Zero Preventable Deaths In Hospitals By 2020

At some point, every one of us will either go to the hospital or take a loved one. It’s supposed to be one of the safest places you can go but the reality is that in the United States alone, preventable medical errors are the third leading cause of death, accounting for over 200,000 deaths each year. Globally, the number of deaths caused by medical errors each year is in the millions. This doesn’t include the millions that are harmed.

It is the very real human tragedy of these entirely preventable deaths that motivated Joe Kiani, an Iranian American CEO of the global medical technology company Masimo, to establish the Patient Safety Movement Foundation (PSMF) seven years ago. Developed in collaboration with patient safety experts, hospital administrators, patient advocates and healthcare professionals, the PSMF has identified the main challenges hospitals face and created solutions they call Actionable Patient Safety Solutions (APSS). Every APSS is available on their website for free. The Foundation began with a public commitment to zero preventable deaths in hospitals by the year 2020. Each year, the PSMF convenes the World Patient Safety, Science & Technology Summit, which I’ve had the privilege to attend over the past several years.

The 2019 Summit in January was particularly noteworthy in that it marked the start of the final year to achieve the movement’s originally stated goal of achieving zero patient deaths by 2020. As in prior-year Summits I’ve attended, the two-day program included presentations by a who’s-who of patient safety experts and advocates, doctors and nurses, and leaders from around the world.

Visual showcase at the Summit: A symbolic tree of lights represents the lives affected by preventable patient deaths in the hospital

The meeting was co-convened with American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA) and European Society of Anesthesiology (ESA) and featured a keynote address by former U.S. President Bill Clinton. President Clinton has attended every year. Other leaders who have been actively involved in the movement over the years include former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, former Vice President Joe Biden, and current British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, who while serving as Health Secretary hosted the 2018 World Patient Safety Summit in London and created a video message to address the 2019 Summit.

During his keynote address to close the 2019 Summit, President Clinton acknowledged Kiani for all his efforts since he made the commitment to start the movement at the 2012 Clinton Global Initiative. Clinton also congratulated Kiani for celebrating, at the end of this year, “his 30th anniversary since he founded Masimo as a garage startup.”

President Clinton went on to summarize some of the key accomplishments of the Patient Safety Movement:

“I’m grateful that the movement just in the last year alone saved more than 90,000 lives. I’m grateful for the 4,700 hospitals at home and around the world that are part of this effort. I’m grateful that 89 technology companies have committed to sharing data to develop algorithms and predict dangerous trends. And I hope there will be more. I’m very happy that this is increasingly a global effort. The patient safety movement now has 35 regional chairs leading local networks across 50 countries … My most important message is to please stay active in this, please get more people active in it, and don’t give up.”

President Clinton’s speech was followed by a sit-down discussion with Kiani to address the many challenges faced around the world today that directly impact the movement’s efforts, including the dangers of apathy, global warming, and the opioid epidemic. Their discussion can be viewed on the Patient Safety Movement’s YouTube channel.

To date, the hospitals that have made a commitment have saved 273,077 lives.

With the 2020 deadline looming, there is very little chance Kiani and the Patient Safety Movement will be giving up. In fact, Kiani and his team are doubling down on their efforts and encouraging every hospital to not just hope for zero but to plan for it by implementing the APSS. As Kiani shared in the State of the Movement address, thousands of hospitals representing 50 different countries have made commitments to the movement in the form of working to implement one or more the APSS. To date, the hospitals that have made a commitment have saved 273,077 lives.

To reach the 2020 goal, Kiani urged every hospital to implement all APSS, which may seem like a tall order given the amount of institutional resistance to change common at hospitals. But he quickly pointed out that four hospitals (three in the U.S. and one in Mexico) have already made just such a commitment. He said, “To err is human but to not put the proper patient safety processes in place is inhumane.”

The 2019 Summit also saw the official unveiling of the newest APSS, “Patient Safety Curriculum for Schools.” The curriculum, which was developed by experts in a variety of fields, is designed to close a critical gap in student training around patient safety and can be adopted by education programs in all healthcare professions (nursing, pharmacy, behavioral health, medicine, etc.).

Another key focus of the PSMF and the Summit is encouraging hospitals to be completely transparent with patients and their families whenever a harm event occurs. The usual approach in the past has been to “delay, deny, and defend,” in the hopes of mitigating hospital liability. But a program started at MedStar Health by Dr. Dave Mayer is about early communication, timely resolution and systems improvements. The program called CANDOR has reduced serious patient safety events at MedStar by 65% and reduced the cost of care associated with serious safety events (including medical liability) by more than $70 million since 2012. It was announced at the Summit that Dr. Mayer will serve as the Chief Executive Officer of the PSMF starting this year and Kiani will remain the Chairman until 2020.

If there’s one key message anyone attending the 2019 Summit should come away with is that ZERO is possible. Yes, it will take work, but the APSS designed for protecting patient safety in a wide variety of medical situations are freely available to implement and generally don’t require large capital investments. Any hospital can adapt CANDOR to their particular environment and culture.

Regardless of what happens come 2020, one thing we know for certain is Joe Kiani is never giving up: “I don’t want it to be me, you, our children, our grandchildren… If I’m standing here in 2020, and we’ve not gotten to zero, at least we should have given it our all. I’m going to give it my all. We have to, but we have to do much more. We have to take risk. Aligned incentives and transparency is not so risky. What do we have to lose?”

Every part of the movement includes a patient or family members that has been affected by a medical error. To view the heartbreaking stories and share your own patient story here.

I am in awe of what this Iranian American has done to improve healthcare around the world. I’m glad that the only number he will accept is Zero preventable deaths. Over 200K mothers, fathers and children are with us today because of this Movement. My hope is that the tens of thousands of Iranian physicians, nurses, hospital administrators, CEOs and those in a position to help, join the Patient Safety Movement. Their midyear planning meeting is on September 17, 2019, at the University of California, Irvine Health on World Patient Safety Day. You can follow the Patient Safety Movement (@0X2020) on Facebook, Twitter and Linked-In. Joe Kiani on Twitter @JoeKiani

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