Dr. Daniel Durand, LifeBridge chief innovation officer, on why 'innovation will never end'

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At LifeBridge Health, Chief Innovation Officer Daniel Durand, MD, focuses on deploying innovations of both the digital and analog variety — whichever will do more to improve the Baltimore-based health system's care quality and outcomes.

"It strikes me that innovation is like fashion: It can evolve and it can move through cycles, but innovation will never end," he told Becker's Hospital Review.

Here, Dr. Durand, who also serves as LifeBridge's vice president of research and chair of radiology, discusses his priorities, the evolution of hospital innovation and his "shameless" enthusiasm for artificial intelligence technology.

Editor's note: Responses have been lightly edited for length and clarity.

Question: What is your No. 1 priority today?

Dr. Daniel Durand: The role of the innovation team at LifeBridge Health is to promote the highest possible quality of care for our patients, both within our enterprise and beyond our enterprise. This means identifying, prioritizing and helping implement a variety of innovations — both analog and digital — and working on a variety of topics ranging from the use of artificial intelligence to improve hospital safety to the use of mobile technology to better engage and delight patients outside the health system as they go about their lives as people.

Q: How do you see your role changing over the next three years?

DD: I expect that the nascent field of healthcare innovation will become more formalized in the coming years. Chief Innovation Officers (CINOs) like myself will become more prevalent and will increasingly not only be responsible for their own centralized activity at the "hub," but, similar to LEAN/PI groups, we will also be asked to educate and promote innovation as a core capability throughout the various "spokes" of our respective organizations.  

I also believe that successful CINOs will increasingly be asked to inform health system strategy and identify potential new revenue sources in areas like telemedicine, internet of things, content/IP generation, etc. It will be key to ensure that successes catalyzed by centralized innovation groups are somehow captured and acknowledged in a manner that ensures continued investment. However, this last challenge is not unique to innovation groups and is true of any shared service within a health system.

Q: What initiative are you most excited about today? 

DD: Call me a bandwagon rider, but I am shamelessly enthusiastic about so-called artificial intelligence in medicine. Of course, I prefer the term "deep learning algorithm" because I wouldn't consider any of these tools to possess true "intellect." This is "narrow AI" and not "general AI" for the moment. But the raw power of tools like convolutional neural networks for image recognition is apparent in every other aspect of our daily lives as consumers, and we need to bring this power to bear on behalf of patients. 

As a radiologist who grew up in the post-EHR, post-PACS era, I am very familiar with the affiliated concepts of information overload and IT-exacerbated provider burnout. We need to use the power of AI to sift through vast datasets, automate redundant processes and free up time that allows us to bring the human touch and the joy back to practicing medicine.

Q: How will that initiative affect the future of healthcare delivery?

DD: I believe that the first impact will be felt within the domains of diagnosis and customer experience. Human providers augmented by AI will be able to gather and focus on the most relevant data faster, which will increasingly feed probabilistic models of decision support that allow for faster and more accurate diagnosis.

Within radiology, for example, we are already seeing machine learning algorithms that can detect life-threatening pathology within minutes of a CT scan — well before a radiologist would have had time to read it using conventional workflows. Further, we are seeing that radiologists need to remain "in the loop" in order to help deal with false positive alarms generated by these technologies.

It's really the combination of both the AI algorithms (maximizing sensitivity and speed) and physician judgment (maximizing specificity, contextualization and communication) that will be truly transformative to the quality of care in the coming years. As we have seen with many digital innovations, I think the experience of radiology is a harbinger for what we will soon see in other specialties.

Q: What do you see as the most dangerous trend in healthcare today?

DD: One trend I think we need to watch is wasteful market dysfunction in the supply chain related to non-value generating consolidation activity upstream of health systems and their patients. 

What do I mean by that? We continue to see mergers and acquisitions between vendors who provide certain commodity-type health system inputs (e.g. generic devices, saline, etc.) that erase, rather than create, value for patients and society. Supply chain consolidation upstream of hospitals often leads to shortages and/or increased costs for basic supplies that have been available for decades. We continue to see price increases in such non-innovative but essential medicines as epinephrine, insulin and naloxone. The money wasted on getting the same things we've always had leaves us with fewer resources to invest in the future and less savings to pass onto patients at a time when healthcare costs are already too high for many.

More articles on innovation:
How to create digital tools people will actually use
Concordia University opening Nursing Innovation Center
The big trends in pediatric healthcare innovation from Children's National Health System's Dr. Kolaleh Eskandanian

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