When Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 disappeared in March with 239 souls aboard, the world searched for answers. They're still searching. Every year, more than 200,000 preventable deaths occur in the U.S., the equivalent of two Flight 370s every day. Here's how we can re-engineer our way to saving lives:
Re-engineering healthcare to reduce preventable deaths
Transparency: Healthcare-associated infections alone cost as much as $45 billion and kill as many as 99,000 people annually, but we do not have a standardized measure to report all infections. We can't improve what we can't accurately count. HHS should require hospitals to define, measure and electronically report all known HAIs. These data will allow for better quality comparisons.
Incentives: Hospitals are penalized for hospital-acquired conditions that are high-cost, high-volume or both. This approach fails to address many fatal problems. Congress should expand current Medicare policy to include a list of causes of preventable death. If a death was preventable, and a hospital failed to implement evidence-based strategies for prevention, the hospital wouldn't get paid. But if a hospital faithfully implemented recognized safety strategies, it would receive payment, as well as limits on malpractice damages.
Interoperability: More than a dozen medical devices can be hooked to a patient, but those devices are handicapped if they can't communicate with each other. Providers should commit to buying only devices that can share data—the data they were purchased to display, particularly when taxpayer dollars are involved.
Data access: Data accessibility is the companion of interoperability—both are essential to create a patient data “superhighway.” This highway carries all patient data, such as information from vital-signs monitors, labs, radiology and other sources. With this system delivering HIPAA-compliant patient data, predictive algorithms can help detect ominous trends before it's too late. Patients also must be able to access to their own health information from medical technology.
Every part of healthcare bears some blame for preventable deaths; every part owns responsibility to prevent them.
Joe Kiani is CEO of Masimo Corp., a maker of safety-related medical devices, and founder of the Patient Safety Movement Foundation. Robert J. Szczerba is CEO of X Tech Ventures, a technology consultancy.
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