Patient Safety: Bill Clinton urges healthcare stakeholders not to leave patients “sicker and broke”

Bill Clinton

Former President Bill Clinton addressed an audience of healthcare industry stakeholders last night, asking them to help leave the system better than they found it through coordinated efforts to leverage technology and expertise in the interest of patient health.

Clinton offered the closing remarks of the Patient Safety, Science & Technology Summit in Laguna Beach, Calif., addressing medical device industry executives, clinicians and other healthcare workers gathered to discuss ways medical device interoperability might help prevent the estimated 200,000 annual deaths attributed to medical errors in the U.S. alone.

"I know that none of you want to be part of a system that leaves us sicker and broke," Clinton said. "The promise of science and technology is important, but we have to develop the right mindset – one that says we have to work together, one that says we need networks, one that says we’ve got to share data, not hoard it."

Clinton’s remarks ended a 2-day conference, spearheaded by Masimo‘s (NSDQ:MASI) Foundation for Ethics, Innovation & Competition, focused on medical errors and medical device accessibility.

Masimo founder & CEO Joe Kiani asked other healthcare stakeholders to open up their devices and share the patient data they gather in the interest of improving patient monitoring and care.

Healthcare analysts estimate that roughly 200,000 patients die each year from preventable medical mistakes, including drug dosage errors or failure to act in time to treat a health condition. Kiani asked attendees in Laguna Beach to work toward eliminating all preventable deaths by 2020, a goal that Clinton supported.

"It is not unrealistic to think that by 2020, which I think is your goal, you can get rid of unnecessary deaths in the American healthcare system," Clinton said. "It is not unrealistic, because what happens, based on my experience in other areas, [is] you start slow and then it starts to snowball."

It’s not Clinton’s 1st brush with patient safety and medical error issues. He was in the White House when the Institute of Medicine in 1999 released its 1st formal analysis of medical errors and their impact on healthcare in the U.S., "To Err is Human."

That report estimated that there were between 44,000 and 98,000 preventable deaths in the U.S. each year, including 7,000 due to medication errors alone. The report further estimated that the annual cost of preventable adverse events was north of $17 billion annually and may have reached $29 billion.

At the lower range of 44,000, preventable deaths still beat breast cancer and motor vehicle accidents as a leading cause of death.

Then-President Clinton accepted the majority of the IOM’s recommendations, which included the establishment of a Center for Patient Safety within the Agency for Healthcare Research & Quality, the creation of both mandatory and voluntary reporting systems and the creation of safety systems within healthcare organizations to address ways to bolster efforts at every level of care. He also ordered a feasibility study on the implementation of the IOM suggestions and signed a bill authorizing funding for a revamped Agency for Healthcare Research & Quality. And the Clinton administration published a larger proposal for addressing medical errors and charged the Quality Interagency Coordination task force with the task of coordinating quality improvement activities among a handful of healthcare agencies.

Clinton last night again emphasized the need for cooperation among various healthcare sectors, even among competing organizations, in developing strategies to address patient safety concerns.

"If you keep together as a network, you can change the world," the 42nd U.S. president said. "If you do it right, you will, without even trying, also put a brake on medical inflation, increase quality of care, enhance wellness and help us to become more competitive in the 21st century world – before we pay a terrible price.

"The very lifeblood of this country depends on us unpacking a lot of these healthcare riddles," Clinton said.

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