AI could reform the physician-patient relationship: How 1 cardiology leader looks at innovation

Mitchell Weinberg, MD, was drawn to cardiology because of the elegance of the heart and the field.

"It is really a beautifully functioning organ," he told Becker's. And once he learned more about the field, he also developed a passion for the ability to affect patients.

Dr. Weinberg became chair of the department of cardiology at New York City-based Staten Island University Hospital in 2020. Here, he discusses how to innovate more and what he thinks will come next in the field.

Question: What heart study, technology or innovation are you most excited about right now?

Dr. Mitchell Weinberg: I think AI is truly important because it is going to potentially change healthcare as we distribute to large populations. AI really has the ability to prevent disease upstream even more effectively than humans. Once we overcome the boundaries for AI, we can change healthcare — and I think that's very exciting. It can also reform the provider-patient relationship. Healthcare providers often feel distant from the patient because of the heavy data burden that the electronic health records require. We're looking at the patient less, establishing less rapport and its wearing on people. But if AI can shoulder that burden instead of the provider, I think we'll be able to bring people and their providers together a little bit. 

AI could also generate interpretation of diagnostics and do triage. The system could look at the variable presented and use big data to say "this patient is at risk for heart failure, and these are the next steps." In every part of healthcare, there's going to be opportunity, but the big challenge we're all struggling with is medical regulation and concerns about privacy. I think we're going to have to marry those two and create an appropriate compromise before we figure out the true timeline for implementing all AI can do.

Q: What aspect of your work or the field keeps you up at night?

MW: The most important element within the cardiology department is the talent of the people, so what keeps me up at night is my ability to recruit great people, retain them and keep them working together. Doing those three things will keep us successful, and that's what I think about most as a leader.

Q: What's one thing your hospital or system is doing in heart care that you're most proud of?

MW: Patient centricity is probably something we are clearly leading the way in. Last November, Staten Island University Hospital built an entire floor dedicated to the care of patients with cardiac disease. The care focuses on the treatment of patients in the throes of acute coronary syndrome, a heart attack, undergoing stenting or or other type of revascularization procedures, opening ordered procedures, patients in heart failure and patients with electrophysiologic disease or cardiac arrhythmias. This floor was designed with the patient in mind and how they would experience healthcare. We hired dedicated cardiologists, dedicated advanced care providers and nurses who were skilled specifically in the care of those disease processes. We also partnered with other disciplines such as nutritionists and physical therapy personnel and brought all of them together to create a plan centered on how the patient would experience care. We created single-patient rooms with amenities more akin to a hotel so patients would have a pleasant experience despite their health challenges. 

Q: What's the best leadership advice you've received?

MW: The best advice I received is that a leader can take many forms, but they should always lead from the front. I took that to heart as a young leader, and I've realized one must always be nimble, but you have to be the first one in the room.

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