Regional Autonomous Patient Safety Launch Event Plants a Flag in Pittsburgh as an Innovation Hub

Dr. Karen Wolk Feinstein welcomes over 110 attendees and keynote speaker Joe Kiani to Carnegie Mellon University for the RAPS Launch event.

Read the RAPS Initiative Overview PDF.

The Regional Autonomous Patient Safety (RAPS) initiative launch event was held February 24 at Carnegie Mellon University in partnership with the Pittsburgh Technology Council, convening regional stakeholders across academia, health care, life sciences, technology, and government in an effort to galvanize attention and resources to the opportunity to build an economy around healthcare safety and establish Pittsburgh as a global hub for development of autonomous patient safety technologies.

In her introduction, Karen Wolk Feinstein, PhD, relayed that health care is at a tipping point, framing the launch of RAPS as a response. The perfect storm of workforce shortages and burnout, a rise in safety issues, and a growing lack of trust have highlighted the fragility of our health systems and the undue burden we place on our frontline workers.

Audrey Russo, president and CEO, Pittsburgh Technology Council, expanded on the region's tech assets and ecosystem that position Pittsburgh to become a tech hub for autonomous patient safety solutions, including that PTC is the largest technology trade association in North America.

"There are barriers. But we're entrepreneurs and scientists. We know those barriers, so with that I say, why not Pittsburgh. We can work on policy; we can work on collaboration; we can work on laws. We have the resources right here," Russo said. "This is the juice that gets us a tech hub. We cannot miss this opportunity."

A recent report by the Office of the Inspector General and a separate New England Journal of Medicine study both show high rates of harm prior the pandemic. Adding to this, during COVID-19, the CDC and CMS observed a substantial deterioration in patient safety measures, including a 28% increase in central lines infection, a 17.4% increase in falls in skilled nursing facilities, and a 41.8% increase in pressure ulcers. The increase in medical errors is compounded by COVID-19's impact on workforce shortages, burnout, and turnover. The state of healthcare safety is simply at all crises levels.

Recognizing that Pittsburgh has the regional assets and investors to be a global hub for developing autonomous patient safety solutions, the Jewish Healthcare Foundation (JHF) and Pittsburgh Regional Health Initiative (PRHI) have launched the RAPS initiative, envisioning the development of new med/tech collaborations, innovations, and solutions. The initiative will build on the region's exceptional resources, such as AI and robotics leadership; the breadth and depth of health services research and education at the region's universities; and the growing regional entrepreneurship and business community.

The RAPS Initiative has already launched with two key funding partnerships established through grants in 2022 with Carnegie Mellon University's Center for Digital Health Innovation on their Initiative for Patient Safety Research, and the University of Pittsburgh's Department of Biomedical Informatics' Medication Error Avoidance at Region Scale.

CMU's Center for Digital Health Innovation (CDHI) received a grant from the Jewish Healthcare Foundation to launch the CMU Initiative for Patient Safety Research (IPSR). The IPSR is co-managed by Tepper and CDHI. The project's initial focus will be on building and educating a community of patient safety researchers across CMU's schools and centers to work on specific problem definitions related to medication errors; create a benchmark data set with external data partners; and analyze the benchmark data set to refine problem definitions, identify outliers, conduct root-cause analyses, and generate hypotheses and proofs-of-concept methods to detect and prevent medication errors.

JHF is also funding the Medication Error Avoidance at Regional Scale (MEARS) study at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine's Department of Biomedical Informatics, which aims to reduce preventable adverse drug events among skilled nursing facility (SNF) patients who transition between the hospital and SNF facilities by developing and pilot testing a clinical decision support (CDS) intervention. The team will collaborate with the CMU team to allow CMU researchers to develop and test predictive and analytic models focused on patient safety and medication avoidance error.

Audrey Russo, President and CEO, Pittsburgh Technology Council, challenged those present to address what needs to change to enable tech companies to enter the healthcare market and create a safety-focused incubator in the region.

RAPS Launch Event

During the RAPS launch event, a keynote was provided by Joe Kiani, founder, chairman, and CEO of Masimo Corporation, where he also is the co-inventor of what is now recognized as "modern pulse oximetry." He grew the business from a "garage start-up" to a successful publicly traded company employing more than 5,000 people around the world and monitoring over 200 million people a year.

In 2012, Kiani founded the non-profit Patient Safety Movement Foundation to end deaths from preventable medical errors in U.S. hospitals and globally He worked with patient safety experts from around the world to create 18 Actionable Patient Safety Solutions and shared them online without charge. Under his leadership, close to 5,000 hospitals publicly committed to zero preventable deaths. Over 90 healthcare technology companies have signed an Open Data Pledge to share their data so that predictive algorithms that can identify errors before they become fatal can be developed.

During his keynote address "The Promise of Technology in Preventing Medical Errors and the Regional Components to Become a Global Tech Hub," Kiani reviewed the persistent problem of medical errors and how traditional solutions haven't moved the needle. Using Masimo's journey and work as a framework, Kiani underlined the promise of technology in preventing medical errors and the market opportunity. He also provided insight into how to create an innovation hub in Pittsburgh that would realize its goals and mission.

Following the keynote, over 110 attendees representing multiple sectors gathered in breakout sessions to discuss: Engineering safety technology breakthroughs with multi-disciplinary teams; commercialized solutions; opportunities for medical specialty breakthroughs; and federal patient safety priorities.

Breakout room leaders included: Richard Boyce, PhD, Associate Professor, University of Pittsburgh Department of Biomedical Informatics; Ari Lightman, MBA, MSc, Professor, Digital Media and Marketing, Carnegie Mellon University Heinz College; Lindsey Ronnenberg, Senior Director, Global Quality, Products and Services, Omnicell; Sean McDonald, president and CEO, Ocugenix and CMU Entrepreneur in Residence; Jose-Alain Sahel, MD, chairman and distinguished professor of the Department of Ophthalmology at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine; Lee Harrison, MD, Associate Chief of Epidemiology and Education, School of Medicine, University of Pittsburgh; Jeanne Iasella, Chief Solutions Officer, TeleTracking; and Paul E. Phrampus, MD, Director of the Winter Institute for Simulation, Education and Research (WISER), Professor in the Departments of Emergency Medicine and Anesthesiology at the University of Pittsburgh and UPMC, Medical Director of Patient Safety at UPMC Health System, and Medical Director of the Wolff Center at UPMC.

Following the lively discussions and idea sessions, breakout leaders and interested participants reconvened to synthesize ideas from the discussions and to help inform the next steps for RAPS.

Alan Scheller-Wolf, PhD, a member of the grant team at CMU's IPSR, asks Joe Kiani a question.

Looking to the future

Among those next steps solidified at the RAPS launch event were: The formation of a regional Advisory Committee of academics, government leaders, health system leaders, professional association representatives, potential funders and investors; the commission of an economic analysis on the economic impact of the RAPS initiative; creation of a concept note identifying opportunities to bring additional funding to the region for patient safety R&D; and approaching potential investors/funders.

Following the event, PRHI plans to form a global advisory to create a Concept Note, outlining the Problem, Vision and Objectives, Scope, Methods, Targets, Timeline, and Management Plan. The Concept Note, backed by the Advisory, will be used to bring R&D funding to the Pittsburgh Region to become a global hub for autonomous patient safety solutions.

Read more about the RAPS event in an article from TribLIVE and an article from Technical.ly.

Read the RAPS Initiative Overview PDF.

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