Health innovation insider: 13 rapid-fire Qs with Atrium Health's Chief Data and Digital Officer Omer Awan

Omer Awan brings more than 20 years of health IT leadership experience to his new role as chief data and digital officer of Charlotte, N.C.-based Atrium Health.

In August, Mr. Awan transitioned to the new position, leaving his most recent post as chief information and digital officer of Navicent Health in Macon, Ga., where he served as CIO since 2016. In February 2019, his role was expanded to include oversight of digital operations and strategy.

Mr. Awan has helped spearhead the development and deployment of digitization strategy and platforms for Atrium and Navicent's "strategic combination," which went into effect in January 2019. Under the agreement, Atrium expanded into Georgia, with Navicent serving as a regional hub for the Charlotte-based health system.

Prior to his work with Navicent and Atrium, Mr. Awan held various health IT leadership roles at organizations including Kansas City, Mo.-based EHR giant Cerner, Memorial Hermann Health System in Houston and Northern Light Health in Brewer, Maine.

Mr. Awan told Becker's Hospital Review what drew him to a career in heath IT was the potential that technology presents to solve healthcare's longstanding problems.

"The promise that technology can not only revolutionize patient care, save lives and make care accessible but also solve healthcare issues that we have been griping about for years, as a nation," he said.

Here, Mr. Awan shares rapid-fire insights on health IT innovations, from healthcare's biggest disruptors to the future of artificial intelligence.

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

Question: Mac or PC? 

Omer Awan: Both but personally, Mac.  

Q: iPhone or Android? 

OA: iPhone.

Q: What has been your go-to tech device during the pandemic? 

OA: My MacBook.

Q: What innovation or technology has made the biggest difference in your organization's COVID-19 response? 

OA: Telehealth/virtual health, web and AI-based triaging, and data analytics.

Q: What's the No. 1 tech device you couldn't live without at work?

OA: My iPhone.

Q: What's your go-to voice assistant: Amazon Alexa, Google Home or Apple Siri?

OA: Amazon Alexa.

Q: If you could add any tool to your EHR tomorrow, what would it be? 

OA: Cognitive computing tools

Q: Which retail or tech giant will be the biggest disrupter to healthcare? 

OA: Amazon and Walmart. However, Best Buy and Comcast can disrupt in a major way as well.

Q: What patient engagement tech do you predict will be most used by patients in the next 3-5 years? 

OA: Personalized care that leverages AI and machine learning and is delivered via mobile solutions.

Q: If you could only have three apps on your phone, which would you choose? 

OA: Web browser, text messaging and email/calendar.

Q: What excites you most about the future of AI in healthcare? 

OA: There is tremendous necessity and opportunity associated with role of AI in healthcare. It can automate image diagnosis, preliminary diagnosis, help reduce dosage errors, detect fraud, and provide great value with robot-assisted surgeries and virtual nursing assistants. This frees up time for the caregivers so they can practice at the top of their licenses.

Q: What's one professional skill you're currently focused on? 

OA: Developing skills necessary to thrive in a remote/virtual work environment.

Q: What is one health tool you think should stay analog? 

OA: The personal interaction between caregiver and patient cannot be digitized, as it cannot mimic empathy and human touch. It can be facilitated and augmented but cannot be replaced.

More articles on digital transformation:
Best Buy names Deborah DiSanzo top healthcare exec
Presbyterian Healthcare Services CIO on IT team's new operating model: We have to deliver more quickly than ever before
BJC HealthCare's experience-based strategy for digital transformation: Insights from CIO Jerry Fox

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