A Bold Vision to Save the Lives of 475,000 Americans Each Year

Imagine a world where no one dies from cardiac arrest. Where in the United States alone, 475,000 lives are saved each year. 


That’s the exact vision that Brian Eigel had in 2017 when he stated his bold vision for getting the number of deaths from cardiac arrest to zero. 


Today, Brian’s vision has resulted in significant improvements in the delivery of Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) training, saving lives in the process. Here’s how. 


For over 100 years, the American Heart Association (AHA) has been fighting heart disease and stroke including, since the 1960’s, CPR training for the medical community and training the general public. 


While CPR plays a critical role in saving lives, one of the biggest challenges is ensuring that medical professionals have high competence to provide high quality CPR and that bystanders have the training to perform CPR in an emergency. Immediate CPR can double, or even triple, chances of survival after cardiac arrest. 


To create a shared mindset of possibility and optimism while achieving extraordinary organizational performance, AHA has worked with Gap International for over ten years. 


Gap International is a management consulting firm that transforms organizations transforming the world. For years, the Gap team has studied extraordinary performance and discovered a kind of thinking that leaders are engaged in when they are at the top of their game. This higher order of thinking, Genius, is unique to each person and needs to be discovered and developed. 


“Genius is the source of our best performance and is now more relevant than ever,” shares Pontish Yeramyan, Gap International’s Founder and CEO. “The usual solutions don’t work any more, and discovering Genius gives leaders an edge, a new pathway to deliver top performance and dramatic results. By learning how to think in this way, the AHA team has been able to create a truly remarkable outcome which is now saving lives.” 


In early 2017, John Meiners and Brian Eigel from AHA attended the Leveraging Genius Conference. John was in the process of transitioning to a new role as part of AHA’s executive team, and Brian would be stepping into John’s role. 


“We were in a period of transition, and the timing was ideal for us to attend the conference,” explains John Meiners, Chief of Mission Aligned Businesses and Healthcare Solutions at the American Heart Association. “Based on our previous experiences with Gap, we knew that attending this event would empower us to step into these new roles and bring our absolute best.”


At the conference, attendees were challenged to take a stand and to share it with the entire group to bring it one step closer to reality. At the moment when Brian Eigel stood up in front of the group, he made a bold declaration that would put AHA on course to save hundreds of thousands of lives. 


His stand? A world where no one dies from cardiac arrest. To take the number of deaths due to cardiac arrest in the United States from 475,000 per year to a total of zero. 


“When I stood up at the conference, I was confident that taking a stand publicly was exactly what needed to happen for that vision of getting to zero deaths from cardiac arrest to be possible,” remarks Brian Eigel, Chief Operating Officer, RQI Partners. “Prior to the conference, I shared my stand internally at AHA, but I needed to go public and follow through. Interestingly, sharing the stand was relatively easy as no one will argue against something that saves lives. The bigger question became how to get people to believe, in the same way I do, that we could get to zero deaths due to cardiac arrest.”


Brian’s public declaration didn’t come completely out of nowhere. In fact, it was built on a stand that John had made years before that everyone should know CPR. John elaborates, “As an organization, we had realized that for us to save lives, we needed more people to know CPR. But from that commitment, it became very clear to us that to prevent deaths every day, we needed to take it further. It wasn’t enough for people to know CPR — they had to be good at it. Brian’s stand was the natural next step towards ensuring that high-quality CPR was the new standard.” 


The stand that Brian took at the conference was the start of delivering on the vision for a world of zero deaths from cardiac arrest. Together, Brian and John worked to get their internal team to share that vision as well as key AHA partners. 


“No one could deny how my vision of a world where no one dies from cardiac arrest was worth investing in,” comments Brian. “The bigger question we were faced with was what needed to be true in order for this to become a reality. We had to get everyone on board and start creating a plan, and there was no guide book for this. We were literally doing something that we didn’t know how to do, but there was no doubt it was worth pursuing.” 


Brian and the AHA team started by creating a video to help get people to buy into the overall vision. The end result was a powerful video detailing the vision, including setting a new standard for clinical CPR training and a society where everyone has CPR training, so bystanders become trystanders who are able to intervene with CPR in an emergency.


AHA had been actively working on disrupting how training was delivered in a clinical setting since 2010. As part of their 2020 goal setting, the AHA Emergency Cardiovascular Care Committee, a group of nationally and internationally recognized healthcare thought leaders who volunteer their time and expertise with the AHA, took a stand to double cardiac arrest survival.  This bold goal served as a foundation for challenging the status quo but with this new, publicly declared vision, they had the realization that they needed to accelerate their efforts, and find a way to make high-quality CPR industry-standard by 2025. 


“AHA and Laerdal have a long history of collaboration, however multiple priorities for each organization resulted in a lack of agility needed to make this vision happen fast, so we had to find another way. We shared our aspiration with Laerdal leadership to see how they may be able to support it,” asserts John. “In those discussions, we realized we needed a separate entity independent of the cycles and restrictions of AHA or Laerdal to accelerate our efforts.”   


The idea of a world where no one dies from cardiac arrest led to the formation of an innovative partnership between AHA (which is a nonprofit) and Laerdal, a for-profit company. The discussions between AHA and Laerdal, including full and complete support from their respective Board of Directors,  led to the formation of Resuscitation Quality Improvement (RQI) Partners, which is focused on driving a paradigm shift in the standard of care in hospital resuscitation. 


“When we started working to create RQI, we kept running into roadblocks where people would tell us this type of public/private partnership was impossible,” discloses Brian. “We kept challenging assumptions around what we could and couldn’t do. The way I now think thanks to my work with Gap meant we didn’t take no for an answer. We kept questioning conventional thinking. As a result, we were able to make RQI a reality.”


Today, RQI is built on the mission of making verified competence CPR the standard of care in the US by 2025. Typical adoption curves for new therapies or treatment is approximately 20 years; RQI has committed to doing this in less than half the time.

“Honestly, the creation of RQI has been challenging, but I am very clear on the fact that this is my life’s work,” states Brian. “Through my work with the Gap team, I had the vision of a world where no one dies from cardiac arrest, but they also gave me the tools required to execute this vision. Right now, we are taking something that is seemingly impossible and making it possible.” 


Through RQI, AHA and Laerdal have changed the standard for resuscitation practices, and it’s working successfully at leading healthcare organizations. Currently, RQI is working with over 700 hospitals across the United States, including the entire Veterans Administration. 


This new standard of care emphasizes mastery learning with low-dose, high-frequency quality improvement sessions that measure and verify competence in high-quality CPR. By practicing CPR more often in shorter sessions, knowledge and skills stay sharp, decay is prevented and more lives are saved. 


Brian explains RQI’s impact, “A recent research study demonstrated that in two nursing units, RQI use resulted in enhanced CPR skill retention and improved clinical CPR quality. In addition, several hospitals have shared at medical conferences and meetings that RQI has significantly improved patient outcomes.  So we are moving in the right direction creating hospital and healthcare staff who are more confident with providing high quality CPR, and that makes them better equipped on the frontline when it really matters.” 


While RQI is handling the healthcare market, AHA is spearheading initiatives around employer and community programs, which trains approximately 22 million people per year. To support the vision of getting to zero deaths by cardiac arrest, AHA has created a full suite of solutions for CPR training, including the use of technology to reduce costs and increase reach. 


When asked about his team’s work with Gap, John had this to say: “As leaders, we are willing to challenge our thinking and enroll in a vision that is as dramatic and bold as creating a world where the lives of 475,000 people are saved on a yearly basis. That type of leadership is a testament to the impact of Gap’s work, and it is what led to the formation of RQI, improvements in AHA’s training programs, and ultimately, has helped save lives.”

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