Pittsburgh Region Explores Autonomous Patient Safety Solutions

Feb. 16, 2022
Effort is building on the region's assets in artificial intelligence, machine learning, advanced informatics, big data, predictive analytics, and life sciences innovation

With a grant from the Jewish Healthcare Foundation (JHF), the Pittsburgh Regional Health Initiative (PRHI) is launching a healthcare safety and technology project with a goal of advancing the Pittsburgh region as a hub of autonomous patient safety solutions. Announced late last year, the effort is building on the region's assets in artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML), advanced informatics, big data, predictive analytics, and life sciences innovation.

Founded in 1998 as an operating arm of the Jewish Healthcare Foundation, PRHI is a regional collaborative of medical, business, and civic leaders organized to address healthcare safety and quality improvement as a social and business imperative. PRHI has guided efforts to drastically reduce hospital-acquired infections, bolster the healthcare workforce, and transform care delivery and payment through demonstration projects that smooth the transition for patients between medical and community settings, and integrate physical and behavioral health care.

The effort to establish a center for innovation in patient safety within the Pittsburgh region—reflects JHF's decades of work in healthcare safety. This project will attempt to connect local partners in Pittsburgh with each other and, when appropriate, with national patient safety experts to explore how autonomous technologies, such as AI, ML, big data analytics, and robotics, can improve our understanding of the preconditions for medical errors and our discovery of fail-safe solutions. The Pittsburgh region aspires to be a national center for autonomous solutions; why not patient safety solutions?

“The time is right for this investment to move Pittsburgh's growing resources and talent in autonomous technology to transform patient safety," said Ronald Poropatich, M.D., director of the Center for Military Medicine Research at the University of Pittsburgh and PRHI board member, in a statement. "Many of us in Pittsburgh are working at the cross-section of health and technology, and this funding will help to create the strategy and academic/medical/industry partnerships to make the region a global leader in patient safety.”

The two-year, $500,000 grant will provide funding from January 2022 to June 2024 to support development of a regional Autonomous Patient Safety Blueprint to document regional resources; seed funding for the most promising breakthrough product and technology ideas in autonomous patient safety; support for regional conferences focused on AI and healthcare; and development of a prototype to adapt hospital and health-system command centers to anticipate and prevent medical errors.

"We envision Pittsburgh as a global leader in autonomous patient safety, building on our edge in eds, meds, and technology," said Karen Wolk Feinstein, president and CEO of the Jewish Healthcare Foundation, in a statement. "This is long overdue. Healthcare safety technology is at the cottage stage; we're aiming now for a moonshot, and it should come from Pittsburgh."

JHF also has been a leader in pushing for the creation of a federal-level National Patient Safety Board akin to the National Transportation Safety Board. In a recent op-ed piece, Wolk Feinstein noted that within hours of the catastrophic Fern Hollow bridge collapse in Pittsburgh, the National Transportation Safety Board was on the scene, finding answers to “Why?” and “How can we keep this from ever happening again?” However, she added, “We have no single federal agency entrusted with a sole mission: to make healthcare as safe as possible by investigating solutions to major threats.”

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