FAILS: Big Lessons Learned from Projects?

Ventilator-associated pneumonia (VAP) is well documented in the ICU. Get pneumonia in the ICU, it costs about $40K to treat and you stand about a 30% chance of dying. It is entirely preventable. So much so that in the US hospitals will not get reimbursed to treat a VAP and will get penalized on top of it.

Non ventilator-associated hospital-acquired pneumonia (NV-HAP) is what it sounds like, you get pneumonia in the hospital, but you were not on a vent. This costs about $25K to treat, you stand about a 30% chance of being admitted to the ICU, if there, you stand about a 30% chance of dying. Again, it is entirely preventable.

7 years ago I developed a device to prevent NV-HAP. We found a clinician who was very passionate about the problem. Device was proven in her facility to prevent NV-HAP.

We went to other facilities to research the problem. They were not measuring NV-HAP. They did not know how many patients got NV-HAP. Since they were not measuring the problem, they did not know there is a problem. Their assumption was there are probably less NV-HAP cases in the hospital than VAP cases (in reality, there is 8x-20x more NV-HAP over VAP because they have guidelines to prevent VAP). Also, they get reimbursed to treat NV-HAP, it is income. Spending to prevent it is a cost.

Since they don’t measure the problem, there is “no” problem. If there is no problem, why spend money on something that isn’t a problem. If they won’t buy a solution, there is no reason to make a solution. I cannot make a product for 1 hospital. Project killed.

Fast forward 7 years. That clinician I mentioned earlier has been educating rigorously other clinicians for 7 years about the problem. It is now a “problem”. Another colleague developed a new device that is more effective than mine. It will be launched before the end of the year.


I worked on a project nearly 20 years ago that used the same supposed tech the Theranos box used. While mine was bigger (damn straight, :wink: ), the FDA was doing their job back then and we never passed the 510k. Just a bunch of wishful thinking that looked good on paper. And the CEO was an angry old white guy, definitely not a sexy-voiced Holmes.

iab: It’s more common than you might think. I read a book about accepting creativity a couple of years ago. The author talks about a couple of cases in the medical field where great ideas were dismissed and why.

Creative Change by Jennifer Mueller

It also reminds me of some famous stories like Dr. Ignaz Semmelweis and hand washing…