Sick and Tired of Being Treated and Dying

1 March 2017 | Track­ing Entre­pre­neurs

If you are seri­ous­ly ill, your first thought is to go to a hos­pi­tal. But in the US, that move may kill you. I am not kid­ding. Con­sid­er these recent words from Rob­by Berman (@everyrobby):

Let’s get right to it: the third lead­ing cause of death in the Unit­ed States in 2013 was med­ical error. So we’ve got can­cer, heart dis­ease, and then the peo­ple who are try­ing to cure you. Accord­ing to an study done by patient safe­ty experts at Johns Hop­kins and pub­lished by BMJ (for­mer­ly the British Med­ical Jour­nal), you’re more like­ly to be killed by a doc­tor in the US than by low­er res­pi­ra­to­ry dis­ease. Or an acci­dent. Or a stroke. Or Alzheimer’s, dia­betes, flu and pneu­mo­nia, or kid­ney dis­ease.

That’s the begin­ning of a superb atti­cle in Big­Think [link], from last May. It will intro­duce you to a prob­lem that I sus­pect is found in health­care across the world.

Hap­pi­ly, Usha Lee McFar­ling (@ushamcfarling) has a Feb­ru­ary 2017 report on some­one who has been tack­ling the prob­lem with the gus­to of a true NextSen­sor. Stat has just pub­lished “A millionaire’s mis­sion: Stop hos­pi­tals from killing their patients by med­ical error” [link]. The equal­ly pow­er­ful arti­cle draws a close focus on Joe Kiani, who is one of the founders and lead­ers of Masi­mo [link], a com­pa­ny that makes med­ical mea­sure­ment devices. Accord­ing to the arti­cle:

It’s not a glam­orous cause. And Kiani is not a house­hold name. But he is a mul­ti­mil­lion­aire with a proven track record of using engi­neer­ing smarts to fix dogged prob­lems; he made his for­tune improv­ing the hum­ble pulse oxime­ter, which mea­sures oxy­gen sat­u­ra­tion in the blood. Now, he’s push­ing a nerdy, but ele­gant, idea for sav­ing lives: prod­ding man­u­fac­tur­ers of med­ical devices and elec­tron­ic records to open their plat­forms so all the sys­tems can talk to each oth­er.

His tech fix — if wide­ly imple­ment­ed — could bring order to the cacoph­o­ny of beeps, buzzes, and blar­ing alarms that can so over­whelm nurs­es and doc­tors that they push “mute” and miss true emer­gen­cies. It could make it eas­i­er for staff to mon­i­tor patients with com­plex needs. And it could flag, in advance, poten­tial­ly fatal errors like incor­rect dos­ing and drug aller­gies.

The arti­cle takes a close look at Kiani (who came to the US from Iran at the age of 9, able to speak only three words of Eng­lish). The author details some of the con­tro­ver­sy around his meth­ods to bring hos­pi­tal health­care into the 21st cen­tu­ry. Nonethe­less, the arti­cle makes clear that, despite the con­tro­ver­sy, progress is being made. “In the past five years, Kiani has encour­aged — some would say brow­beat and pub­licly shamed — 70 com­pa­nies to sign a pledge to open their plat­forms. The group includes some of the biggest med­ical device man­u­fac­tur­ers — who also hap­pen to be some of his most bit­ter cor­po­rate rivals.” I com­mend both arti­cles to you and note that such reports prove again that every field of endeav­our holds some tan­gent that is ripe for a nextsens­ing rev­o­lu­tion.

Since Kiani has an engin­ner­ing back­ground, the arti­cle brought to mind one of my favorite books. In my work with exec­u­tives I often use the frame­work from Rich Gold’s The Plen­i­tude [link]. Gold frames four “hats” worn by the cre­ators of new things: the artist, the design­er, the sci­en­tist, and the engi­neer. To be super brief, the artist cre­ates things by trans­lat­ing his or her inner vision; the design­er cre­ates based on iter­a­tive user feed­back; the sci­en­tist cre­ates from the pur­suit of truth; and the engi­neer cre­ates based on the spec­i­fi­ca­tions of a defined prob­lem.

It just may be, as the arti­cle sug­gests, that had Kiani been a med­ical doc­tor, he might have been blind to the prob­lem at hand. By being able to wear an engi­neer’s hat, he could assess the data with a non-med­ical point of view and think through what it would take to address a prob­lem that was, and is, lit­er­al­ly killing peo­ple.

The les­son? I spoke in my most recent e‑book about the val­ue of hav­ing a lead­er­ship cir­cle [link]. The rea­son for that is that dis­par­i­ty of back­grounds and per­spec­tives is what’s most need­ed to pio­neer the future. The inte­gra­tion of dis­parate sources of infor­ma­tion — data — into a coher­ent whole is many times a pow­er­ful way both to under­stand prob­lems and to gen­er­ate nov­el solu­tions.

In the case of human beings and med­i­cine this could not be more appro­pri­ate, as our bod­ies func­tion as an inte­grat­ed sys­tem even if doc­tors, their mon­i­tor­ing devices, and their treat­ment reg­i­mens are biased toward iso­lat­ing prob­lems as if they were not part of a larg­er organ­ism. That’s why Kiani, and all the oth­ers who have joined them, need our salute for break­ing down long-stand­ing bar­ri­ers to man­ag­ing patient data. The 70 com­pa­nies Kiani has per­suad­ed to open up their sys­tems may seem a small step. Yet, it is a sig­nal step toward reach­ing a tip­ping point where­in wide­spread adop­tion becomes inevitable.

Health­care and well-being are just two exam­ples of how data will soon be used to our greater advan­tage. Chan­neled through a wider use of elec­tron­ic sen­sors, then fun­neled into the Inter­net of things, big data will soon set the stage for ground-break­ing advances for those will­ing to think dif­fer­ent­ly. When med­ical errors are the third most prob­a­ble rea­son for some­one to die, it’s time to take hold of the sta­tus quo and stran­gle it first.

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Here are some relat­ed links you might also enjoy.

Kris­ten Sturt reports on “7 Amaz­ing Med­ical Break­throughs That Will Wow The World In 2017” in The Huff­in­g­ton Post [link]. From tri­corders (a la Star Trek) to cur­ing Alzheimer’s with ultra­sound, Sturt’s arti­cle will gen­er­al­ly wow you.

ABC News Point has prof­fered a list of the “Top 10 Best Hos­pi­tals in the World” for 2017 [link]. Says the site: “When there’s an issue of health con­cerns, the ini­tial choice you made is to look for sev­er­al best hos­pi­tals that can give you sat­is­fied med­ical care.… The rat­ing of these top 10 best hos­pi­tals in the world is pre­pared [by weigh­ing] health care ser­vices, med­ical advance­ment and com­forts they are pro­vid­ing.”

Bernard Marr (@bernardmarr) stud­ied how big data is being used in France. Check out “Big Data In Health­care: Paris Hos­pi­tals Pre­dict Admis­sion Rates Using Machine Learn­ing,” which allows the read­er to get a hands-on feel for the inter­sec­tion of using big data inside a health­care sys­tem that has long oper­at­ed with­out it. The arti­cle is on Forbes [link]. Says Marr: “It’s just one more way in which cut­ting-edge data sci­ence is being applied to real-world prob­lems in health­care, along with cre­at­ing per­son­al­ized med­i­cines, fight­ing can­cer and stream­lin­ing phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal tri­als.”


Joseph PistruiJoseph Pistrui (@nextsensing) is Pro­fes­sor of Entre­pre­neur­ial Man­age­ment at IE Busi­ness School in Madrid. He also leads the glob­al Nextsens­ing Project, which he found­ed in 2012.

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