Health innovation insider: 13 rapid-fire Qs with New York-Presbyterian CTO Dr. Peter Fleischut

When Peter Fleischut, MD, thinks about his role as the senior vice president and chief transformation officer at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital in New York City, he said "it's about people and process."

Dr. Fleischut, who entered the medical field as an anesthesiologist, became focused on one-on-one interactions with his patients early in his career, and he's dedicated to improving those interactions and using technology to improve the relationships patients develop with their care providers.

For him, digital transformation in healthcare is not about innovation for innovation's sake. Digital innovations should always seek to make the patient experience better.

"Technology is not value-neutral. In the adoption of technology, it is our role as leaders to make sure it doesn't worsen care or worsen disparities. It should reduce disparities, and it should improve care. So i think it's important, as we adopt technology, to think about that," Dr. Fleischut said.

Here, he shares his rapid-fire thoughts on health IT innovation, from the future of artificial intelligence to his favorite devices.

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

Question: Mac or PC?  

Dr. Peter Fleischut: Neither. I do everything on a phone or iPad; I rarely use a computer, technically. I guess you could say Mac, but I rarely ever use a computer.

Q: iPhone or Android? 

PF: iPhone.

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

PF: I would, unfortunately, probably have to say Zoom.

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

PF: Telehealth, remote patient monitoring and advanced analytics. The combination of those three have been transformative for us to take care of patients at home and throughout the course of their illness during a crisis.

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

PF: My phone.

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

PF: None; I don't use any of them. I find that with technology, I need to get more out of it than I put into it, and I've tried to use them, but I don't get a lot from them in their current state. That doesn't mean I wouldn't use them in the future, but I just don't get a lot from them, so I choose not to use them.

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

PF: Any tool to make healthcare less transactional. So anything that would make it more end-to-end, like a digital experience going throughout the continuum. I think healthcare continues to be transactional. You will see a doctor. You will see a nutritionist. You will see a wound therapist. You will see a social worker.  So, I think the tool would be anything that would make the experience less transactional, less episodic and more end-to-end digital, so a patient can navigate through the system seamlessly.

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

PF: I think Microsoft is a pretty impressive technology giant, and the work it takes on is pretty impressive. I think the thing about technology giants is that they transcend almost any industry, so while they might not technically be involved in just healthcare, I think what they've done is pretty impressive. 

Q: What patient engagement tech do you predict will be most used by patients in the next three to five years?

PF: Text messaging.

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

PF: Text messaging, email and calendar. 

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

PF: What excites me the most about artificial intelligence is actually how it improves some of our back-end processes. I think it provides the ability for us to move more people to the front lines in healthcare, and it provides the ability to take care of more patients. So any way we can be able to use it for HR, finance, IT and clinical trials is really exciting because it enables us to be able to put more people on the front lines. I think the relationships in healthcare are essential, and relationships you develop with people are at the core of the success of healthcare. So, the more people we can have on the front end, the more relationships we can build by automating some of the back-end processes.

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

PF: My video meeting skills. This is a new era, so we now need to be comfortable giving town halls with 500 people, doing one-on-one meetings, being able to navigate different platforms and engaging people over video in different ways we never had to do before. About half of my team works directly on the front lines in the hospital and pharmacy. The other half of my team is completely virtual. So I need to be able to be onsite and have a presence but also be able to connect with people virtually like I've never done before. The majority of my career has been in-person all of my life, so it's not exactly a skill set that was taught to me, to engage hundreds or thousands of people via video the same way I would do in person.

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

PF: A nurse-patient interaction. I also truly believe there's a lot of value in the patient-physician relationship and that communication. I think technology should accelerate that and encourage that, but it shouldn't replace that. So, I don't ever want to see patients lack the ability to directly connect with a doctor and communicate with them. Now, do I think there are parts of the patient-physician relationship that could be made digital? Of course there are, for things like getting a refill on a prescription or scheduling a follow-up visit. But I think the relationship should never be replaced to be completely digital.

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