Speaking in Orange County Monday Former President Bill Clinton blamed an increasingly complex and "encrusted" U.S. healthcare system for ballooning expenses, sicker patients and unnecessary deaths.
Clinton said decades of adding conflicting rules and stopgap measures to an outdated health bureaucracy has led to a bewildering and Byzantine system that accidentally kills 200,000 patients per year in the U.S.
"There’s no devil here," he said. "We have an encrusted system that's killing people, not because there's somebody lurking behind the curtain.
"There need be no evildoers in this story. There's just human nature and the nature of human development,” he added. “Institutions have become ossified and rigid... where position is more important than purpose, or people get overwhelmed by complexity."
Clinton spoke Monday at the Inaugural Masimo Patient Safety Science and Technology Summit at the Laguna Niguel Ritz Carlton. The aim of the conference is to sign up manufacturers and developers of health monitoring devices to share information with one another to reduce unnecessary patient deaths in the United States.
Eight major manufacturers Monday announced their commitment to share information with each other to create a "health data superhighway," which would automatically warn clinicians, patients and families of symptoms indicating an upcoming heart attack, seizure or other health threat.
The U.S. spends 18 percent of its gross domestic product on healthcare, six percentage points higher than the nation with the next most healthcare spending, said Clinton.
Yet the U.S. has poorer outcomes for patients than other Western countries, despite spending more, he said.
Clinton commended the patient safety summit participants for getting together with their knowledge and expertise to help solve the problem of unnecessary patient deaths. Solving the problem would also help address the high cost and poor outcomes that plague the U.S. healthcare system.
“Networks of creative cooperation will dominate the 21st century, for good or for ill -- the cumulative impact of people thinking together, talking together, working together,” Clinton said. “The failure to continuously improve the system... is undermining the productivity of the country.”
Clinton discussed several of his Clinton Global Initiatives that he says have improved the lives of more than 4 million people who now have health clinics near their villages, can afford AIDS medication, or have access to healthier and less sugary foods in schools.
It was these initiatives that inspired Mission Viejo-based Masimo Corporation founder Joe Kiani to organize the patient safety conference. The $500 million-per-year company makes medical devices that monitor hemoglobin levels, the amount of oxygen in the blood and brain function, among other data.
Central to the strategy hashed out at the conference would be to allow medical monitoring devices to communicate with each other and allow computers to collate patient data to keep an eye out for something going wrong. A fluctuation in hemoglobin, for instance, may not mean much alone, but when coupled with some other fluctuations, it could mean disaster for the patient, Kiani said.
Another improvement to patient healthcare addressed at the summit would be to reduce errors in administering drugs and the number of blood transfusions using older blood, which deteriorates over time and can harm patients. Also, instituting basic checklists during surgeries and other procedures -- similar to those used in the aerospace industry -- can help save lives.
“I know that none of you want to be a part of a system that leaves us sicker and broke, or you wouldn’t be sitting here,” he told the crowd. “I think our future belongs to creative networks of cooperation.
“We’ve got to share data, not hoard it. It’s not unrealistic to think that by 2020, you can get rid of unnecessary deaths in the American healthcare system."