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'Health Data Superhighway' Could Prevent Hospital Deaths, CEO Says

Irvine-based Masimo exec wants medical monitor devices to share information.

Masimo medical device CEO Joe Kiani likes to cite a statistic that 200,000 patients a year die preventable deaths under the care of doctors and physicians in the U.S.

With the inaugural Masimo Foundation Patient Safety, Science and Technology Summit he organized in Laguna Niguel this week, Kiani aims to reduce that number -- which was found by a Hearst Corporation investigation in 2009 -- to zero by 2020.

To start, he persuaded eight major medical device manufacturers to join his company in sharing all their health data with one another. Kiani's Irvine-based company makes monitors that measure hemoglobin levels, brain function and oxygen in blood, among others.

His goal is to have a patient's pulse and brain function monitors communicate with a system that also stores radiological and blood sugar data, along with other real-time information hospitals collect on patients in their care.

One of the biggest causes of preventable death in hospitals is the failure of doctors and nurses to recognize in a timely manner symptoms indicating a major problem, Kiani said.

"We'll have a superhighway of patient data," Kiani said. "From the devices, they'll all go to some algorithm that says, 'We think this could be happening to you.'

"Right now, it's data overload," he continued. "The only time [clinicians] get a good look at the data is after the fact."

Major health monitor manufacturers Cercacor, GE Healthcare, Dräger, Cerner, Smiths Medical, SonoSite Fuji, Surgicount Medical and Zoll Medical all vowed to share their patient data along with Masimo.

But that's just one pillar of the plan hashed out at the conference, which featured former President Bill Clinton as keynote speaker.

Kiani said hospitals, clinics and blood banks could start implementing other measures right away to reduce patient deaths.

One tool discussed at the conference was using a checklist before a patient goes into surgery or intensive care. First promoted by Dr. Peter Provonost, such simple lists of steps to take before a procedure can drastically reduce deaths, according to studies by Provonost and other researchers. Provonost, who was honored at the conference, won a MacArthur Genius Grant for his work in 2008.

Also, Kiani said, blood from bloodbanks is overused in surgery. Much of it is too old, with deteriorated red cells, he said.

Hospitals treat blood "like it's water," he said. "It's not. Some of this is 40-day-old blood. Would you eat a steak that had been in the fridge for 40 days? You look at it through a microscope... the blood cells can't go through capillaries."

Another major cause of preventable patient death is medical mistakes -- often involving misprescribed drugs or incorrect dosages.

Kiani said the conference was inspired by Clinton's global charity initiatives. Last June, Kiani traveled to Africa with Clinton to watch his process. Rather than just raising money in the manner of traditional nonprofits, Clinton was able to build "networks of creative cooperation," as Clinton explained in his keynote address.

The goal of the patient safety summit was to create such a network, Kiani said.

Kiani started his company in 1989 with a $40,000 loan against his condo and $100 million from investors. It has since grown into a major manufacturer with revenues of $500 million per year.

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