Patient safety pioneer Dr Joel Nobel dies


Patient safety pioneer Dr Joel Nobel has died. Dr Nobel founded ECRI Institute in 1968 with a mission to improve the safety, quality, and cost-effectiveness of healthcare. He provided hands-on leadership for 34 years. 

A physician, inventor, and researcher, Dr Nobel’s remarkable vision and work led to many patient safety and technology improvements. 

“While there is no way for all of us to truly know just how much Joel contributed to the world, we all know that he made a huge difference. Quite simply, the world is a better place because of Joel,” said Anthony Montagnolo, chief operating officer, ECRI Institute.

Dr Nobel conceived the ECRI Institute in the early 1960s while working as a resident in surgery on an ongoing research program in resuscitation and emergency care. 

Following an internship at Presbyterian Hospital, during his surgical residency at Pennsylvania Hospital, Dr Nobel developed MAX, a unique self-contained cardio-pulmonary resuscitation system. It radically reduced the time and number of physicians and nurses needed to start and maintain critical life support measures. MAX was featured in LIFE and TIME magazines, and 600 units were deployed at hospitals around the country, including one in the White House Dispensary. The MAX prototype is at the Smithsonian Institution. 

In 1969, ECRI Institute, known then as Emergency Care Research Institute, published the first comparative evaluation of manual resuscitators, which showed that 9 of the 18 models sold in the United States were ineffective; the manufacturers withdrew them from the market. From its research roots and early transition to an evaluator of medical technologies, ECRI Institute has grown into a highly respected independent healthcare research organization that plays a major role in technology planning, procurement and management, patient safety, quality and risk management, healthcare policy and research, and healthcare environmental management.

In 2011, the organization was cited as one of the 33 most significant medical innovations in Philadelphia since 1751. 

ECRI Institute now employs some 400 scientists and other professional staff in its Plymouth Meeting, PA, headquarters, and in offices in the UK, Dubai, and Malaysia. Almost 50 years after being founded, ECRI Institute continues to reflect its founder's passionate views on integrity and independence in research.

Dr Joel Nobel, ECRI Institute, US